APW Wedding Budgets – Cold Hard Numbers

Ok. I’m going to do something exciting and terrifying today. We’re going to talk about money, specifically wedding budgets. I know! I’ve been avoiding the topic of real life wedding budgets with actual numbers for, ohhhh, two and a half years now. But I got this comment on Monday, after I said that while APW-ers could talk about parenting and sex  without batting an eye or raising a voice, but we’d never been able to discuss wedding budgets calmly:

I know what you mean… the topic of money comes up and everybody starts feeling bad about themselves for one reason or another… but, I wish there was a way for us to become good enough listeners to have discussions about money without freaking out because I know that for me, money was the biggest stressor when planning our wedding. I think that one of the reasons I was so stressed was that I felt completely in the dark. The only people who talked about money and weddings online were people who were spending SO MUCH MONEY and people who were devoted to spending nothing at all. I feel like the majority of us, folks who aren’t millionaires, but do plan to spend more dough on our wedding than we’ve spent on almost anything before (whether that amount is 5k or 50k) were left to figure it all out for ourselves.

Reading the discussions in APW comment threads has really helped me to step out of my own shoes and see lots of different things from other people’s perspectives and I wonder if we’re not incapable of doing the same thing when it comes to money (although I know how hard that would be). I know it would have helped me.

And, well, I just couldn’t not take on the challenge. I love a challenge. It’s a character flaw.

So this is how we’re going to do this. We’re going to lay out cold, hard wedding numbers…. anonymously. You don’t have to be anonymous, but I’d encourage you to be, and here is why: People are more honest about money when they are anonymous. When you’re anonymous, you tend to not try to brag about how much you spent, or how little you spent, or how smartly you spent. And that kind of bragging and reverse bragging is what takes wedding budget conversations down. Plus, when no one knows who you are, you’re less likely to get in a fight with someone about how bad you think their spending choices were. As if you should be judging anyway, achem.

So. Anonmously, I’d invite you to leave a comment saying:

  • What you spent on your wedding.
  • Where you live (Big city? Small town? Expensive area? Affordable area?) Because oh, boy does that change your budget numbers.
  • How big your wedding was.
  • How that budget roughly broke down (How much was food? Venue? Dress?)
  • What your biggest challenge was.
  • How you feel about your budget post-wedding (if you are post wedding. If your not post wedding, you might want to sit this one out and just read the comments. It’s hard to tell what the h*ll is going to happen to our budget and what you’ll learn from it mid-planning. Besides, if you pat yourself on the back too early, you’re just inviting disaster, trust me. Ack.)

Ground rules:

If you’re being anonymous and you have a gravitar (the little picture of yourself), don’t use your gravitar email address, use another one or a fake one, or your picture will pop up. Also, don’t put in your URL. Though, if you want to use a name that’s not your regular handle, go for it.

No judging other peoples choices. No judging your own choices. Try to be as nice to yourself as you are to everyone else. Money stuff is hard, and you deserve a break from beating yourself up, yes?

Annnndddd, let the knowledge sharing begin. I’m scared! And excited!

PS If you haven’t read it, I wrote a post about what I learned about money planning my wedding that might be helpful. I modified it for inclusion in the second edition of Ariel’s Offbeat Bride book (whooo!), but you can read it in it’s full glory here.

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489 thoughts on “APW Wedding Budgets – Cold Hard Numbers

  1. Spent about $23,000
    Live in a city of about 200,000 people in an expensive area on the East Coast
    120 guests
    Food was about half our total, while dress was only $250. Venue and photography were big costs. Spent less than $500 on flowers (used potted, local orchids for centerpieces and then $100 worth of hydrangea bouquets)
    Biggest challenge: trying to keep costs reasonable when my parents were willing to spend more
    Post wedding, I still feel like it was a big number. However, I feel good about the things we spent money on, and I feel that it would have been difficult, given the fact that my parents could afford to feed our almost-all-out-of-town guests dinner, to cut costs any more than we did. I would have felt strange asking my friends to spend $300 to travel to our wedding and then ask them to buy their own dinner because of my discomfort accepting money from my parents. I wonder if it would have made sense, in my situation of having little time and my parents offering money, to spend a little more to coordinate less (for example, a venue with in-house catering). In the end, though, I feel a little uncomfortable with our total, but I know that we spent on things that required spending and saved on things that did not, for us. And the wedding was fantastic!

    1. I had similar conversations with my parents. I think, in a lot of ways, the wedding was also a reflection on them (or at least they felt that way), and they wanted to do extra things to make sure the people attending had a great time. I tried to keep this desire within reasonable limits. It was a constant compromise.

      1. I had a similar experience with my parents, too. They believed that this was a reflection on them (we DID have it at their house!), so I was constantly trying to find ways for them to spend less money and/or consume less (using real plates not plastic, for example), while they were not at all worried about the money or the state of the landfills. And I was constantly attempting to get them to compromise without them knowing it, since I didn’t want our wonderful event to turn into a struggle between my values and their desire to throw a great party for everyone we love in the only way they knew how to at the time. I think we all ended up sufficiently happy, which is really great, but it was definitely a struggle!

        1. I had the same experience as well (mainly with my Dad). He was all about being a great host & wanting certain things because people would ‘know’ that he was putting on the shindig. Thankfully I knew this already from watching my sister plan her wedding a few years prior. His main thing was wanting an open bar for a majority of the night and enough food options for everybody… (because according to him the only thing that matters is that people are fed & drunk… which is pretty much true, I suppose). So I let him do what he wanted with that part of it… I figured he was paying for most of the wedding, so I owed him that at least. Right? Plus, I knew my poor friends would not complain about drinking for free all night… :)

    2. I know what you mean about being uncomfortable even though you can afford it. For me, it’s not my parents, but my fiance who has plenty saved up, and I originally wanted to spend a lot less. But like you, we’re on the East Coast in an expensive area, and his family were all going to travel, so the idyllic (moderately expensive) venue that everyone would have to travel to ultimately made the most sense.
      In fact, we have a very similar wedding all around, it seems, and I’d say, let go of feeling guilty. Weddings are expensive, and I think you’re right that it’s much easier (and I dare say, nicer for your guests) to have a fully catered meal and dancing when you’ve asked them to travel. It sounds like you did a great job of cutting what you could, and if the wedding was fun, that’s all that matters!

  2. I honestly don’t know what we spent in total on our wedding. I know that sounds irresponsible but my husband said “it’ll cost what it’ll cost and there’s not much we can do about it” and whilst that freaked me out (this was my biggest challenge), I went with it.

    We got married in London and had a party at home for 40 or so people. Then we went to Paris and had a big reception for 120 people. Then went to Spain for a week’s holiday.

    The Paris end cost about £12k (food, drink, music, flowers, a rubbish photographer etc) – 25% me, 25% husband, 50% husband’s family. The rings (engagement and wedding bands) were quite expensive – maybe £3k in total. I spent £300 on material for my dress and my aunt made it for me as a present.

    I genuinely do not know how much all the other elements cost. Pretty much everything else came out of our joint account and just got spent as we went along.

    1. Yup. We’re the same. My mother contributed $10k (AUD), to do with as we please. We decided to use this sum (and only this sum) for the reception. We figured other costs were really treats for us (dress, suit, stationery, flowers, makeup) and we could cut corners there if we needed to, but that we didn’t want to feel we had to do that for guests.

      We aimed to save up another $10k for everything but the reception. We actually exceeded that (woot!) through dint of hard work and some lucky timing, so have just spent what we want to spend on the rest. I have an inbuilt ‘that’s outrageous!’ meter when it comes to spending money. So when all the cake quotes I got were $500, and I didn’t want to spend that on cake, I did the ‘call a local bakery’ trick and got our cakes for $120 (I then spent the difference on amazing custom caketoppers from etsy and a kickarse DIY cake stand… but I’m happier about these expenses).

      Anyway, the $10k was supposed to cover eeeeverything else. I would say it covers everything else except the honeymoon. Not too bad. We ended being able to pay for bridesmaid’s and best woman’s outfits, instead of asking them to buy, which I’m happy about.

      So. I’m in Australia. Reception for 80 people (number selected by dint of our budget, which luckily coincided roughly with the number of people we really wanted there) is $10k. $700 on flowers for bridal party and family members (no other floral arrangements). $2500 on the dress, $800 on his suit. $3000 on photographer (we got an amazing deal, very lucky), $350 on attendants’ dresses… what else? $150 on fabric to make napkins. Centrepieces will be re-used jars with tealights, so free except for the tealights… since we had money spare and no energy for the ipod route $1000 for a DJ (expensive round our way, it seems!) $800 for our darling day-of coordinator… About $1000 for invites, rsvps, thankyou cards and order of service booklets, by a wonderful etsy person. Worth every penny.

      We initially thought we wouldn’t have a honeymoon, but will have the cash for that. yay!

      One thing I have kept in mind is that I bought a dress majorly on sale and did everything on the cheap for my highschool ball. And while I did like my dress, I do kind of regret choosing the cheap one over something I really, really loved. I’ve always, always been the girl that chooses the thing she likes on sale over the full-price thing she loves (even when she can afford the full-price thing), and I’ve made a conscious decision not to do that for the wedding.

      1. Replying to my own post, having read some of the later posts:

        i) We won’t have a rehearsal dinner. They’re not the norm here. We won’t have vehicles, because I just don’t care about them (and neither does my partner).

        ii) I am finding our budget has enough give in it to allow me to, on the days when I am tired and frustrated and DON’T CARE to book the expensive, but very nice, vendor just to cross something off the list (my hairdresser is costing a bomb – I think in retrospect she expected me to haggle on price, but as she was the first of like, 12 hairdressers to both return my call and be available, I just didn’t care by then. She was friendly, sweet, and available. Sure I’ll pay her $400 to do three people’s hair).

        1. You are making me feel much better. I have a very similar attitude to money as you, and I have around 50 guests – probably. Adjusting for number of guests our budgets are looking very similar. I have been quoted a bit more for photography by someone whose work I love, so I’m glad you felt yours was reasonable.

        2. haha, I also have “an inbuilt ‘that’s outrageous!’ meter when it comes to spending money”, so I think your cake solution was quite perfect. We got past the cake thing by having my sister make 100+ cupcakes, the neighbours bring other desserts (peanut butter cheesecake, to name one!), and my cousin make one birthday-cake sized cake for us to cut.

  3. Okay I’m a total geek, I have coppied the list of questions into the box to help me get it all down!

    First off we got married nearly a year ago, I live in a smallish city in quite an expensive area in the UK. I’ll give prices for things in $ but the exchange rate is about £1=1.6$ for those of you that can do in your brain maths of have a calculator to hand. for extra context a mars bar costs about £0.65, our weekly food budget is about £75 for two people and our house (tiny 2 bed terrace) cost £285,000, our household income is about £67,000 a year. We both have masters degrees, I’m an engineer and my husband is a games programmer.
    Oh and i’ll tell you a secret – this is a guess! I don’t actually exactly know how much we spent in the end, it all got a bit scary.

    We had 100ish people during the day and another 50-60 came along for the party in the evening. We spent ((or aimed to spend) about £6,500.

    So big ticket items:
    Venue – £500 (total bargin)
    Dress – £650 for bride and bridesmaid
    Groom’s Outfit – £350
    Food – £1350
    Booze/Drinks – £1500
    Band – £800
    Decorations and hire stuff – £500
    Photographer – £350
    Invites, thank you cards and postage – £150 (DIT)
    Hotel – £250 (major splirge but it was so nice with a roll top bath looking out over the park – I still think about that bath every time i walk past it now – totally worth it!)
    Thank you gifts – £150
    Flowers – £125 (thankyou princess lastertron!)
    Legal ceremony – £75
    Celebrant – free (a very good friend)
    bar – free because our friendas and family drank it dry and they let us off paying as they had made so much money!

    Our biggest challenge was finding a venue we liked and could afford. We have some compleatly daft rules about where you can get married and who can do the ceremony in this country. A venue has to be licenced to have legal weddings which makes it really expensive. In my city is is also very expensive because most of the venues are owned by the same organisation and out of commission during term time.

    How I feel about our budget? I’m happy about it, I don’t think we skimped on anything and I don’t think we went to over the top. It was about right. There are things we could have sorted out more frugally if we had more time, but we didn’t to c’est le vie. I don’t wish we had spent more money on anything really. I kinda wish someone else would make my wedding album for me becasue I can’t be bothered and it would be nice to have one.

    We probably shouldn’t have spent so much on our honeymoon, but that’s a different story!

      1. I will too, if I ever get to the bottom of these comments and can start my own!
        Not only do I like to make sure I answer everything (there’s the geeky part), but I also have a bad memory and would surely get distracted answering one part and then forget all the others!

  4. Good idea Meg, as usual. I’m just going to go down the list.

    – Spent probably 35K total. My parents, who are wealthy, paid for everything.
    – Boston. Expensive.
    – 120 people
    – The vast majority of budget was spent on catering, which amounted to about 16K I think. About 4K for venues (church and reception site). Dress (plus alterations) was $805, bought at discount dealer. We also paid for little buses (that no one ended up riding!), $800; hairstyling, about $700; photography, about $2000; flowers, done by gifted family friend, about $1000. And a million other little things…

    – Challenges and feelings:
    I am a fortunate person in that my family has money (I am in a very unlucrative profession, so personally, I don’t ). My parents immediately offered to foot the wedding bill, and said I should spend whatever I wanted. They said that with the knowledge that I would be compulsively trying to keep costs low throughout. It was hard hard at first for my parents to understand how expensive wedding stuff is. I have a reputation for being stingy and ascetic, so when I would try to make money-saving moves, they would make comments to the effect that I should just let go and enjoy and spend. And then they would look at the actual numbers and be surprised at how much we were spending. I struggled to make them understand that efforts to control costs were not just me being anal and uptight, but rather me being sane and trying to fight a rotten, exploitative industry.

    30K in Boston does not go too too far; my parents talked to friends and got 40-50K as standard wedding cost numbers. I feel like we did a lot of cost-controlling things, and we did not spend money on shit we didn’t care about. But it was still an expensive wedding. And that’s okay, because we could have afforded a much more expensive wedding. Spending less than we could have is consistent with the values that pervaded the whole event. In retrospect, I feel pretty good about the whole thing. Definitely it feels good to have hired vendors whom we really, really liked as individuals, and whose values (those values again) were consistent with ours.

    1. I am so glad you posted this. We’re about a year into a two-year engagement in Boston, hoping to spend about the same, and, yes, my parents are footing the bill. My fiance and I make almost no money, and my parents have it. They gave the same directive – spend what you want – and, as my fiance keeps pointing out, I’m the only one who is constantly stressed and ridden by guilt about how much everything is going to cost. Becca at A Los Angeles Love posted about money fairly recently, and several of the blog ladies I read responded with their budget numbers. I was shocked. From my perspective it seemed like everyone in the “indie” blog world spends $10,000 or less, no matter where they live, and it was really eye-opening to see that that just wasn’t always the case.

      1. I’m getting married an hour outside Boston and all my vendors are from Central MA. If you’re willing to go even an hour out of Boston, prices drop a whole lot. I know this isn’t feasible for everyone but thought I’d put it out there…

        1. I live about 30 miles south of Boston…close to Providence. I am having my wedding at my Church, and the venue at a historic site in RI. I will post all my numbers later….but honestly I think the total is under 10K or around 10K and I know my wedding will be wonderful….a little different on many levels, but very traditional on other levels….It can be done no matter what the budget! I believe that!

        2. We live in Boston, and I did not even consider Boston venues in my search, because I knew what the average prices were. I spent 2 solid months hunting for venues, from nearby suburbs and to 4 hours away in Northern New England. Then when we did find one we really liked, I negotiated further.

          As a Frugal Yankee paying for the wedding ourselves (the groom & I), I had hoped to stay under 6K. Now it is looking like it could be twice that, which is sticker shock for us. I won’t know exact numbers until we are closer to our date next year, but I plan to keep my research & negotiating skills sharp, and continue to seek out the best fit for us, without breaking the bank.

          There IS an option for a Budget Boston wedding — The Rose Garden for a ceremony, and a private restaurant room for the reception — if you can chance the New England weather, and have a guest list under 50. Anything is possible! Its a matter of what your preferences and resources are.

          1. …actually, my twice the 6K estimate includes the rehearsal BBQ & Sunday brunch, so I should start to relax at some point, once it really hits home how much of a good deal this really is.

            I do plan to ask family if they can chip in any way possible, whether that be for smaller items like stationary or cake, or bigger, more traditionally parent-funded things like the rehearsal dinner/brunch. The latter would cut our costs (and worries) considerably.

      2. So glad my comment was helpful to someone! :)

        In looking over all the other comments here, it’s interesting how much variability there is in how we define the “wedding budget.” Even aside from the variation in what we all choose to buy or omit in planning our weddings (for instance, we had no cake and no engagement ring, so obviously those items aren’t in the budget), there are differences in what we include when we make our lists of expenditures. My tally, just for the record, did not include honeymoon costs or all the things the groom’s family paid for, ie the rehearsal dinner. If you added those things, the total cost would be waaaaaay more.

        Very interesting thread… I’m wondering too what the numbers here say about the APW readership–how do we as a group compare to regional and national averages? That’s interesting to think about too.

    2. – We are spending about 38K total. His parents gave us a budget of 40K and my mom gave us 5K
      – Boston. Wow, expensive (especially to a girl originally from the Midwest do people not have just plan function halls in Boston proper?)
      – 135 people – guestimate wedding is still upcoming
      – Our budget went mostly to the catering/ venue
      Venue – 5900
      Food and drink – 22,000 this includes the cake. I had no idea cakes were so expensive but 7 dollars per person was what we ended up with. We tried someone who charged less. The taste difference was…astounding.
      Dress plus alterations – 1100 (the dress itself was 800 just to give an idea of what alterations can be in Boston)
      photography is 2600
      flowers is 200
      Dj 1200
      hair and makeup 500 (paying for BMs and moms)
      invitations printing (we designed ourselves) 900

      – Challenges and feelings:
      As I said before his parents offered us a very generous budget. I was totally thrown by the number at the beginning. There were ways we could have paid less. Our venue is very expensive (it’s the science museum in boston). There were venues that were less expensive but they either required waiting a full extra year or resulted in very close quarters for our guests. And we have a dinosaur at our venue! A dinosaur! (I’m a geek.)
      Additionally, we’re paying for everything. Except for his uncle is marrying us, nothing is really DIY or DIT. I spent a lot of time wishing I could have a handmade wedding, like the one verhext spoke of quite recently. It took me a really long time to get over the fact that we weren’t going to be having that. Our families live very far from one another and Boston is very far from them. Many of our choices were made knowing that our guests would be traveling. A big one is that our wedding venue is accessible by public transit.
      The other truth is, we’re busy. I’m a postdoc in a profession that expects work to be your life. Now that we’re getting close to the wedding I cannot thank his parents enough. In the last two weeks I’ve submitted numerous papers, a grant proposal, and have not been sleeping. I have to travel for work in a week. There are 3 more deadlines I hope to make before the wedding. It’s hard enough for us to just contact vendors that we are paying to check in. (My fiance has been extremely involved in the wedding. Vendors have been a bit surprised.) I can’t imagine doing any of this ourselves right now.
      Much like Fleda, I too have a reputation for being thrifty. We aren’t spending money on stuff we care about. I’ll probably wear shoes I’ve owned for 3 years. I’m not buying a new necklace. He’s wearing his suit. We’re not doing programs. We picked vendors we liked, hope we can trust and hopefully it works well. I am still constantly astounded by how much things have been, especially since 3 close friends from the midwest also got married this year. We wanted to get married where we live and where gay marriage is legal so the decision isn’t one I regret but oof.

      In the sprit of honesty: that number is for the wedding day. It does not count the “rehearsal” dinner that grew to be huge because out of town family and friends are invited. It does not count the brunch the next day. It does not count the reception being thrown by his family for friends and relatives on the west coast that could not make it out to Boston. I think these extra things are not as typical nor as necessary.

      1. What I mean by not necessary. Is not necessary for most people. Due to our far away families and such they were necessary for us but I think that isn’t the norm for many people.

      2. (This is a different Anon commenter) I think it’s interesting that people leave out the rehearsal dinner and brunch when they talk about wedding costs, because those things themselves can cost so much – if you choose to have them, which is not any less a choice than choosing to have a pro photographer or videographer or band or DJ or dinner or dessert or whatever else. We ended up having a version of them, but I was totally blindsided by how much we could have spent on them especially if we paid for a hotel brunch – which would have been $30-50 pp with tax and service charge at our hotel. What we did end up spending for those two additional wedding events I definitely consider as part of our overall wedding expenses.

        1. I didn’t include the rehearsal dinner because we didn’t plan it or pay for it, I don’t even know how much it was. If my in-laws weren’t volunteering to take it on, we probably would either have skipped it entirely, or done something extremely informal (read: cheap).

          But generally I agree it’s funny to read all the “not including”s on here. For some, every penny spent on anything related to the wedding gets counted, and for others “wedding” costs are a very specific set of things, and “side items” (from shoes to rings to the rehearsal dinner) don’t get counted. interesting phenomenon.

          1. I agree. Totally interesting to see what people exclude.

            For me I don’t include my engagement ring in the cost, but wedding bands ARE counted? Weird probably, but for some reason the engagement ring seems like it’s own entity.

            Otherwise we’re including everything possible other thing in our “total”.

        2. haha whatever i didn’t include was pure memory loss. as i read these comments i’m like, “oh yeah! we bought rings! (80) and rehearsal dinner! (200)” i guess i just listed the things that were most memorable… and made my wallet hurt most haha.

      3. It wasn’t my wedding, so I don’t want to comment total $, but that DIT wedding was not super super cheap either. Big tent rental (i cannot BELIEVE how much tents cost to rent) + wiring electricity to the site + semi-famous band = where all the $ went. But then they didn’t pay for food, dress, makeup and hair, photos, etc…

        It’s so interesting how we prioritize!

        1. OMG — tent/table rentals were what made me shy away from the original DIY everything plan.

          We’re creative and have many resources at our disposal, but not a tent in our back pocket, and when I saw how much it would cost to just have a backyard cookout self-catered, thanks to the tent & equipment rentals, I ran away. Went with a catered venue with great atmosphere, relaxed coordinator, and decent prices instead, and have finally resolved that spending the extra money to have someone else take care of the main stuff (food, drinks, set-up/clean-up, etc), was worth it. And less hassle!

  5. We spent the equivalent of about $18,000-$20,000 (never actually calculated the final number)
    I live in a big (4 mil people) city, expensive-ish (but in Africa)
    130 guests (but planned around 150)
    We originally planned around a rough figure that my mum had head of $135 per guest (average of all wedding costs not just food) and that worked out about right. Reception (food, waiters, venue hire, linens etc.) were about half of the total. I spent nearly $2000 on my custom made dress (store bought dresses imported from USA etc. cost at least that here). Photography was $2400. Flowers were about $400, but what suprised me was the additional expense of hiring other decor stuff (vases, candlesticks etc.).
    We were VERY lucky – my parents very happily paid for almost everything. I covered hair and makeup and a few odd and ends and my husband’s parents paid for the booze.
    The biggest challenge for me was weighing up the right amount of money to spend on something. Often I could afford to pay for something (even on my own) but it just felt like I wasn’t going to get value for money (hair!). My parents’ (especially my mum’s) attitude that it is a privilege to be able to host a beautiful wedding for her daughter eliminated a lot of budget stress for me. Lucky, lucky girl!

    Post-wedding, I wonder if we would have chosen the same things if my husband and I paid for it ourselves. We could have, although it would have meant some more planning and some compromises and I think overall, I would have made pretty similar choices. Ironically one of the few choices I would go back and change is that I would have spent the extra money on one of those fancy wedding hairdresser types. I tried to find a discount option and I think the results show it. No major regrets about the budget, no major learnings either (I’ve learnt far more about money buying cars and houses and merging budgets with my husband).

    Wait, on thinking about it, one learning – either do it right or don’t do it. Trying to do something on the cheap because you don’t feel right about spending more just didn’t work for me (see exhibit A: hairdresser, and exhibit B: favours – spent a tiny amount and it looked kind of ridiculous, going without would also have been perfectly fine!)

    1. “The biggest challenge for me was weighing up the right amount of money to spend on something. Often I could afford to pay for something (even on my own) but it just felt like I wasn’t going to get value for money (hair!).”

      me TOO. we couldn’t afford things- but that was less important to me than the fact that i didn’t think it was worth it to throw so much cash at some things.

  6. i’ve talked about it before on here.

    our original budget was $6,000. that was back before i’d actually checked into what things COST. when i thought, “this sounds reasonable enough.” we didn’t actually HAVE 6grand sitting somewhere- it was just a number picked from the sky because it sounded generous yet frugal and nice and round.

    after finding out how much things cost, we let it expand as necessary- to $12,000, by the end.

    we’re in philly, of course, so the giant lavish wedding is the norm. we had thrown a catering hall anniversary party for my parents the year before, and it was gorgeous, reasonable and all-inclusive. so we went back there. the word “wedding” made the price quadruple. literally.

    photos were the biggest bulk at close to $3grand, dress was $800 (used designer gown), and food was around $2grand for the dessert buffet and another $2grand for an intimate dinner after (for family and travelers). we also paid $400 for josh’s suit- we bought the dinner jacket and pants, etc and had them tailored. venue was a church hall, so only $300 there. and maybe $600 for rentals. we counted the honeymoon in with the wedding expenses because it was a necessity, as far as i was concerned. that was $150. florals were fake and came to maybe $100. i took pin-up photos as a surprise for josh which were $300ish. invitations were on sale at target for about $100. two cases of champagne and a live band, both of which i can’t recall exact figures.

    we had between 150 and 200 at the dessert buffet and about 60 at the “intimate” dinner (which i realize is funny to some of you who had 30 at your wedding. it gets hard when you both have giant families.)

    the biggest challenge was knowing what to compromise. we wanted to have everyone there. but we wanted it to FEEL special. in a family where parties happen all the time, we wanted our wedding to stand out- and that usually requires cash. plus, everyone else had their own ideas of what should be dropped for the sake of the budget (my mom insisted on paper plates, but i was 100% opposed)

    i also struggled with guilt over our spending choices. you can take a look at the numbers and see that a lot of money was spent on us- looking good, getting nice photos, going on honeymoon… i had a lot of trouble feeling okay that we only served dessert and champagne and were treating ourselves to brand new suits and designer gowns.

    in retrospect, i’m happy with our choices- even though they resulted in taking out a small loan. $12,000 is a huge number to me, still. but i feel like we got what we paid for, and in many cases, more than we paid for. i’m most happy that we included everyone we wanted to- no skimping on the guest list. it was worth giving up a fancy dinner or beautiful venue to have everyone there.

      1. I think it’s so hilarious how wedding budget ALWAYS expand. My best friend and I got engaged at basically the same time. I remember our first conversation about money and weddings was like. “Neither of us are going to spend more than 3k… no WAY!” Well… that number kept getting slightly bigger and slightly bigger until I spent around 18k and she spent around 30k. Whoops. I guess I original guestimates were a little off.

    1. I’m in the planning stages right now, but had also picked the number $6,000, also completely arbitrarily! I’m glad we’re not the only couple who found that we needed to expand this, considerably. Even though we’re not planning on including a number of “traditional” wedding items (dress, flowers, photographer, DJ, cake) our $6,000 budget inflated considerably as soon as we got catering estimates in. Yikes.

      1. I’m getting married in January, in São Paulo – Brazil. Quite a expensive city, more expensive than the city I live in.

        The first hard decision to make was where to get married. I live in a small town and my fiance lives in SP. My grandfather lives there too, and he can’t travel. We knew, from the beginning, things were more expensive there. But it seemed important to have my grandpa with me on my wedding day.

        My first budget was R$ 12k (around US$ 7k). My wedding planner told me it was impossible, and then I tried to make things possible in another way. I thought “I have 110 guests, that can’t be impossible.”

        Well, it was. Until now, we’ve spent almost R$ 25k (Around US$ 12k):
        – photos: R$ 6k (that’s my ‘luxury’. my photographer is great, i know that would be off budget).
        – venue, caterer: R$ 15k
        – candy (i don’t know how to say that in English. it’s this: http://www.lavieendouce.com.br): R$ 1,3k
        – priest: R$ 1,8k (boy, that’s expensive)
        – gown: R$ 1k

        Still to go:
        – booze: it’ll be around R$ 3k
        – flowers: my family used to produce orchids, i know how much they cost. I thought i was going to spend around 2k, but I can’t find a vendor for less than R$ 5k. WAY off budget.
        – hair/make: it’ll be around R$ 1k. I’m searching for alternatives.

        My father is paying the bill for the party). He didn’t say a word about values, but some prices just don’t seem right for me. My fiancee is paying for the honeymoon and for the new house. That’s the plan. But many times I wonder if I’m doing the right thing (not by getting married, but by spending all this money in a single day).

    2. “In a family where parties happen all the time, we wanted our wedding to stand out” – exactly! My family is the party family, all my parents’ siblings’ and my friends spend most summer weekends and a couple major yearly blowouts at my parents farm drinking and swimming and dancing and I wanted our wedding to be one of these parties but the biggest and best of those parties.

  7. We spent around $17,000 for the rehearsal/ wedding day…. I don’t know the exact number because we (I) spent what I was comfortable with and went from there.
    We had 80 people in attendance and the wedding was held in the Midwest….population somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people.
    Biggest expenses were food/bar ($6000) and photography ($3200), followed by my dress ($2200). I thought I did great on flowers ($800) because we had a lot of flowers for what I spent, at compared to all of the other quotes I got.
    The biggest challenges weren’t money related, but planning from a far and constantly being surprised at how quickly the little things added up at the end.
    Post wedding- half way through the process, I realized I didn’t need to do the whole wedding thing like I originally thought I did. My husband wanted a party for our family to celebrate with us and so we moved forward. I couldn’t throw a half thought out party, so I spent money on stuff we really didn’t want or need but in my mind completed the look. I wish I could have found a happy medium and spent that money on furniture for our new house instead, but the pictures showing the love and joy in the faces of our family make it worth it.

  8. Spent just under $20,000, maybe closer to $19,000.

    Total guest count was around 130, invited just under 200. Our wedding was in New York state, not too far from NYC but not super close either.

    Catering/reception was the biggest portion, coming to around 8,000. That actually doesn’t include alcohol (open bar), which came out to $2,000. Dress was probably about 1,000 with alterations (800ish before), and the biggest other expenses were DJ (2,000ish), photography (just under 2,000), and florist (around 1700). We kept it pretty reasonable on many other things, like invitations, which cost total under $300 because I did them myself.

    Our biggest challenges related mostly to the guest list, not so much for cost reasons but for space reasons. Keeping the budget in check took a lot of research, some creative thinking, and some decisions about what to leave out (mainly, videography and a day-of coordinator), but I felt like it was a big game that I sort of welcomed, and perspective like that of my fiance (who is more the saver in our relationship and is good at telling me “Think about it, do you REALLY need that? Is it going to make a difference worth that dollar amount?” and the perspective from APW helped me feel like I didn’t NEED everything.

    Post-wedding, I feel really good about the budget. Part of the situation to be honest about is that my parents gave us an amount they were willing to pay, which was very generous, and since this is anonymous, was $20,000. His parents then told us an amount they were willing to put toward our honeymoon, and we spent less than that (I am not including it in the above budget.) I feel great that I didn’t overspend my parents’ amount, and remain really grateful to them for their generosity. (For the record, one of their only stipulations about the wedding was “open bar”!)

    The other reason I feel good post-wedding about the money is inspired at least in part by APW, which is that the largest amounts of money other than catering were paid to wonderful local professionals with small businesses, mainly our DJs (a married couple), photographers (another married couple), and florist. I did feel like 1700 for flowers was a lot, but I knew that DIY flowers would drive me insane, and I loved what she did, so in the end it’s not too upsetting. I feel like under 2K for our photography was a STEAL, and our photographers were nothing but wonderful to work with and produced beautiful photos – I congratulate myself regularly for finding them. And our DJs were amazing as well, they kept everyone on the dance floor and we got so many comments about how great the music was. They also took on the role of coordinating the reception events so I didn’t have to worry about the timeline during the reception, which I loved. At the end of the day, we paid above average for the music, but I don’t regret it one bit, because our DJs are wonderful people who are great at what they do.

    Also, I was proud of myself for the creativity I found with things like invitations, card box, favors (and we used my MIL’s baking talents for personal cookie favors, which felt good too). I had friends act in a coordinating role during reception set-up and at the ceremony, and my trust in them was absolutely warranted. With everything about DIY and DIT on the internet, I felt that we made the right choices about what to take on (a few crafty type things, but not photography, music, catering, or flowers).

    There is probably plenty more I could say, but I will leave it there since I’ve written way too much already!

    1. I don’t mean to hijack your comment but, just out of curiosity, would you be willing to share where you had your reception? I’m looking into a semi far-off wedding in NY, near NYC.

    2. I want to second the appreciation for APW’s (Meg’s) encouragement to consider who you’re hiring, and that it’s worth it to pay people what they’re worth. I feel there is a lot of discussion of getting the cheapest possible deals (necessary for some people), but I like the idea of mindful spending. When spending more than you’ve ever spent on anything before, isn’t it nice to know your money is going to an independent professional you trust or a company who treats their workers fairly? Again not judging those who don’t have many options. But it’s not something you even see mentioned in most mags/blogs/books on wedding planning. (And it helps me feel better about our spending – we might actually be helping the economy…!)

    3. Total: $16,000ish (not sure exactly, for the sake of my peace of mind)

      Location: Kentucky, small town suburb of a big Ohio city

      Size of Wedding: 220 guests (300 invited)

      Budget Break-Down:
      Reception: $9000ish. This price included prime rib dinner buffet and open bar for beer and wine (liquor available for cash)
      Cake: $700
      Dress: $866, with alterations bringing the total up to about 1050 I think. Veil was $130.
      Flowers and decorations: $800ish
      Honeymoon: $3000ish for 5 days in Mazatlan, Mexico
      Rings: $3000ish for the engagement ring (he saved for 2 years and paid cash) about $600 each for the wedding bands. All of these bought in Tennessee, where we live.
      Photography: $1800
      DJ: $1600
      Hair: $80 (including trial)
      makeup: $120 (including trial)

      My parents gave us my dress and $5000 and we paid for the rest. Actually I think they ended up paying for more than that, and I’m going to pay them back as soon as I can.

      Challenges: I had a few moments of sticker shock and panic that I eventually had to just get over. I worried about transportation for a while. We finally decided that instead of getting a limo we’d borrow 2 minivans or SUVs from family members, just to keep everyone cool and together. But one of the vans we were counting on broke down and we had to rent one at the last minute. That’s one of the expenses I’d like to pay my parents back for.

      How do I feel about it now? I’m glad that none of it was paid for on credit (except what I feel obligated to give my parents). I think we did the best we could for our money and were able to throw a great party! The best thing was the value of our venue, which I’m convinced is a hidden gem in our area. We got a prime rib dinner there for less than what other places charged for chicken. And the service was amazing! The chef himself took my groom and me through the buffet line and they had been so thoughtful as to make cookies in the shape of animals my family raises on our locally famous farm! Other brides don’t get to eat at their wedding sometimes, but they made sure we did!

      1. Very helpful! I’m planning a wedding in Louisville so it’s nice to see a regional comparison. And a shout-out to another KY APW reader!

  9. OK: numbers. We thought we were just going to throw a party and we didn’t have a lot of traditional things like a guest book or professional flowers, so we thought that it wouldn’t be very expensive. So, while some of our main things were way less expensive than what you sometimes see, there were still a million small things that kept adding up, which I didn’t expect. We got married in a small town north of a big east coast city. Things are expensive, but we’re far enough from the city that bargains can be found too.

    Guests: 100 (adults and kids)
    Food: about $4500
    Drink: Was supposed to be open bar (we calculated $1000, but because of miscommunication, it was on the guests).
    Venue: $1000, which included wedding site: $300 donation (unconventional site: definitely worth it), reception hall: $500 + $200 for site-supplied bartender (before tip)
    Speakers, soundboard, almost piano-worthy keyboard, and chairs: $400
    Attire: $400, which included dress for me with alterations, shirt (custom-made by a friend) and pants for him, and shoes for both of us. Bridesmaids and groomswomen wore what they chose. There was a lot of not-matching going on.
    Rings: $500, hello, Etsy.
    Flowers: $100, local farmers market
    Decorations: $100
    Cupcake and Cookies: Provided by groom’s sister (we provided brother-in-law with a lot of local beer and the kids with legos—we were not above bribes!)
    Photo: Free, provided by friend (we paid for her hotel room)
    Hotel rooms for photographer, officiant, and college student friends who played music and did a reading for us: $450
    Rehearsal dinner: $600

    That’s $7650 before a bunch of incidentals, which include the cost of people staying with us, going out the week of the wedding, hiring a housecleaner before everyone showed up, makeup, gifts for everyone involved in the wedding (this was expensive but worth it—averaged maybe $30 per person), etc.

    1. PS We had a friend DJ, which ended up being a disaster—not his fault, but more of a logistical thing; i.e., people hijacking music at the end of the night—, but conceptually was sound. I also have a soprano, a pianist, and some horn players among my friends. They did the ceremony music.

  10. Still in the planning stages but I hope to spend under $ 4,000. We are having a destination wedding in driving distance from our home in the Northeast. We are driving to an area that is cheaper to help the budget stretch. We are only having 7 guests. Most of the budget is going to the inn we are renting out for the family. I got a dress for under $100 on ebay which is to PERFECT for me. We won’t be doing a lot of the traditional “wedding stuff.” No decorations, tables numbers, bouquets, etc. so that saves a lot. I hope it will be more of a vacation for our families who could not ordinarily afford one. My fiance and I are paying for the whole thing and that amount of money, while not much by wedding standards, still makes me want to throw up. We are really looking to buy our first place, too!

    1. I’m envious of your seven person wedding! We were aiming for 20, ended up a bit over 100, which was a compromise with our parents.

  11. Our wedding was in a city in the southern U.S. and cost $25,000, not including the rehearsal dinner or honeymoon. We had about 60 guests that we served a sit-down dinner to. The food cost $1800 (the venue would never send me a bill for the alcohol for some weird reason, and they also didn’t charge a room fee), I borrowed my dress, the flowers cost $1200, a wedding planner (my husband insisted we get one because we didn’t live in the area) cost $4000. The wedding venue cost $2000 including the organist’s fee. The live music at the reception cost $900. We spent $4500 on photography. Our cake cost $500 including the rental of the cake stand and its pickup the next day. Our budget also includes some flights taken to the city we got married in for planning purposes, and hotel rooms.

  12. We spent about $10,000 on our wedding, from start to finish (thanks in large part to my parents!).

    The wedding was in a smallish town (about 80,000 people live there), which is generally rather affordable.

    Total head count — 58 people.

    The most expensive part was covering half of everyone’s hotel room (about $4,000). This was something we really wanted to do, since travel costs were pretty high for most of our guests, and the hotel we chose, while fabulous, was a bit on the expensive side at $200/night. Most people stayed two nights. The food was actually pretty reasonable (around $1500) and the photographer was a sort-of a friend ($1,000). The dress budget was blown at $700. But I LOVED it and so did he, so we were okay with it. Other expensive things were the boat we rented out to take our guests on the night before the wedding and the tents, tables and chairs. The venue was free, as it was my grandparents’ cabin. And flowers were downright cheap! We paid $45 total, for my bouquet, 4 bridesmaids’ small bouquets, and table flowers. It was a steal– and we picked them ourselves.

    The biggest budget-related challenge was covering part of the hotel rooms– mostly because we felt that was important for some of our guests, to whom travel costs might have been prohibitive. However, it was also a huge chunk of our budget, which ended up sending us over budget… In the end, though, we decided to do it, since we wanted our friends and family to be there with us without having to feel like they were emptying their pockets to do so. (This makes the decision sound very clear-cut, but in actuality there were months and months of deliberation that went into it between myself, my now husband, and my parents. Hoo Boy.)

    Post-wedding? The whole month that it’s been? I feel great about it. We had a kick-ass time, and we’ve heard from lots of our guests that they did, too. And even though we went over budget, that dress made me feel like a million bucks, and the food was unbelievable, and all our friends and family were able to be there and celebrate with us. Every penny was worth it, just for that. (Side note: the pennies spent on the boat were NOT worth it, as the boat broke down at the dock. Luckily, we were able to develop a quick alternate plan, thanks to some wonderful cousins!) Throughout the entire wedding process, money was one of the biggest stressors– for everyone involved. However, at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter. As I ate the food, I wasn’t thinking ‘how much did this cost?’ I was thinking ‘wow, this is the tastiest brunch I’ve ever had in my life!’

    1. umm… I can’t get my picture to not show up. I didn’t realize I was so computer-illiterate. What a blow to the ego this morning!

  13. i know we were told to sit this one out, but i have to put in our anticipated budget…

    we plan on spending between $25,000 and $28,000. We live in the DC area and it’s uber expensive in all wedding categories (can i tell you that i nearly lost myself when i got pricing from a wedding photographer whose packages STARTED at $8,000 for 6 hours of coverage??? because i did. and then i laughed. then felt completely overwhelmed at the entire concept of a wedding budget…but, i digress…). we’re planning on moving the festivities to the Shenandoah area, because we can’t afford to do what we want, as we want it, in the DC metro area. We’re planning on 120ish adult people, with a few kids thrown in because most of my friends are married with children and I want them to be at my wedding more than I want their children to stay home ;)

    From the pricing we’ve seen so far, and with the venue pretty much squared away, the break down is this:
    Venue Rental $1,800
    Food and Drinks $14,000
    Photographer $3,000
    Dress $1500
    Paper stuff (save the dates, invitations, thank you’s) $1,000
    Rabbi, Chuppah Rental, ceremony odds and ends $1,000
    Flowers $800
    Rehersal Dinner $2,000
    Sunday Brunch $1,000

    God willing, we will make it all work out without spending my entire life savings and that of my parents (my fiance is bound and determined to be debt free by our wedding day – he’s getting closer and closer with each passing month, for which I’m very thankful! That said, while I have the mindset that the wedding expenses should be somewhat split between bride, groom and parents of both, especially when the couple getting married are 30 year olds, he’s not biting…it makes for some interesting conversations in our home!).

    1. The first photographer I contacted was $18000, so compared to that $8000 doesn’t sound so bad! I was shocked, to say the least. I think photography is the one budget item I was totally unprepared for. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the going rate seems to be in the $3000-4000 range. Not that I begrudge them, living in the Bay Area is expensive and these are all great photographers, but yeah I was surprised how big a chunk of the budget photography will end up being.

    2. This is precisely why we decided to skip the professional wedding photography thing all together. The photographer would have cost at least as much as everything else we spent combined.

      1. For you DC brides – my dad is actually a wedding photographer in Richmond, VA (about two hours south of yall) and does weddings in the DC area. He charges roughly $2000 for the full day of pictures – no time limit. Similarly the photographer for my wedding (to be held Oct 2011) – a photographer picked by my dad – charges $1400 (I think) … anyway generally there is a charge of $50 per HOUR of travel time but with the prices yall are quoting I think it’s totally reasonable and the work is phenomenal. Both my dad and my wedding photog also include engagement photos in the cost! Sorry to be somewhat self-promotional, but unless you are getting massive, matted and framed portraits or thousands of prints you can totally find someone outside the DC area who will do great work for a bargain price.

        1. I’m actually looking for a wedding photographer right now, does your dad or your photographer have a website?

    3. I am also in the DC area and am totally terrified by the mere cost of living in the city, much less getting married! My fiance and I are thinking of exporting the wedding to West Virginia, where we can have the outdoor country wedding we’ve imagined, and MUCH

    4. sorry, I accidentalyy posted my comment without finishing but don’t know how to go back and edit it. I was saying West Virginia (close to DC) is much cheaper and still only under 2 hours from DC, so that’s where fiance and I are thinking of having out wedding. Our wedding isn’t for a while yet, at least another year, but I’m already getting soooo stressed out about money. Where do you find a dress under $1,000 in DC??? Any suggestions?

  14. I am still pre-wedding, but our wedding is three weeks away, so I have a pretty good idea of the budget.

    What you spent on your wedding: It will be approximately $14,000.

    Where you live: Washington, DC—which is very expensive for weddings (and everything else!)

    How big your wedding was: SMALL. 35 people.

    How that budget roughly broke down (How much was food? Venue? Dress?):
    Venue: $700
    Food and Drink: This is the one thing we are not positive on, because we will pay for the bar per drink rather than per head—but probably $7,000 (so half the budget!)
    Photographer: $2,000
    My Dress: $600, plus $200 for alterations.
    Flowers: were not at all important to me. $170 for two bouquets and two boutonnieres.
    Music: $35 to hook our IPod into the venue’s jack

    That does not add up to $14,000, but there were other small things that had costs. We splurged on getting a hotel room for two nights, even though we live down the street from our venue–$400. I am getting my hair done by my normal hairdresser, whom I love, but her salon’s rates are expensive ($150 for the day of, $50 for the trial). I am wearing a hairpiece that cost $120. Officiant is $350. Invites were $160. Etc.

    What your biggest challenge was: There were not a whole lot of challenges financially. We knew right away that we wanted a small wedding, and we knew we wanted to spend $10k-$15k. We are paying for the entire shebang ourselves, which I think was more of a blessing than a curse, because we did not accept any input from our families whatsoever (and they did not expect to give it, either). But because of that, there might be “weddingy things” that people normally expect that we are not doing.

    For example, no rehearsal dinner. We made reservations at a restaurant the night before with our parents, but it has to be no host. Our wedding is so small and is at a place that normally does rehearsal dinners, so why should we host two of these things? And every time I hear someone say, “Oh, have everyone over to your house for a pizza rehearsal dinner,” I laugh. These people obviously do not live in the expensive city that I do, which means that I share a 1-bedroom apartment with my fiancé.

    I would also say that a challenge for us is that we are not particularly into DIY. We don’t want to have to do a lot of work on our wedding day especially, which makes it difficult when you are trying to cut back on costs. I also don’t particularly like being put to work at other people’s weddings and events, so I am very hesitant to ask for help with my day-of things.

    1. I totally know where you are getting married based on the venue cost and the iPod rental and I have to say it’s a great location! Congratulations on your rapidly approaching nuptials. I’m all excited for you and I don’t even know you.

        1. We got married there too (I’m not the bride from the wedding graduate post), and we have friends getting married there in December. Clearly its a great venue, you will have a wonderful time.

          1. I’ve looked into them. I wonder if they’re increasing their prices next year because the patio rental they quoted me was $1000. I’m glad to know you liked it there though — it’s definitely on the list. Thanks for spilling the beans :)

          2. They might have raised their prices. We got married this past May and booked in the July before. That said the $700 was for the two rooms upstairs, I didn’t ask about the quote for the patio, so maybe that was always more expensive. Good luck finding a place! I know it’s hard.

          3. Totally fine that you spilled the beans on the Tabard Inn! I’m not doing the ceremony on the patio, hence the $700 for just the two rooms upstairs. Their price per head for dinner has gone up to $55 from the $50 it was when I booked a year ago, but mostly everything else is the same.

            I’m glad to hear that you had a great wedding there! Makes me even more excited for mine!

        2. I wish I knew where your venue was! I’m currently on the prowl for affordable venues in the D.C. area and am having one hell of a time!

          1. The Tabard Inn (http://www.tabardinn.com/events/rooms) – very reasonably priced for DC (I thought), but it will only work for smaller weddings because the rooms are only so big. They were great to work with though – and the food is super yummy. I would definitely recommend them.

            (Hope it’s okay I spilled the beans, Jess…)

          2. Anna,

            If Tabard doesn’t work, try Darlington House in Dupont. It’s a restaurant but the upstairs room that they call the Library holds receptions.

            I just got the suggestion from a co-worker today to do our rehearsal at Tabard Inn! That’s where I’m staying the night before the wedding and the wedding night so it might work out!

  15. We aren’t actually getting married until next year, but we do have a budget and have spent some of it already on deposits etc and we know the final costs for most things, although obviously we have plenty of time to go over. We live in the UK in a small city in the West of England. We’re very fortunate in that my father has offered us £5k towards the wedding costs and my future parents in law are covering the honeymoon. The rest is coming out of our savings.

    Venue – Free!
    Food and wine for 50 people £1750 – we’re having a delicious three course meal which will be organic and locally sourced – I think this is a very reasonable number at £35 per head
    Champagne – £500 – sourced by my father from The Wine Soceity
    Photographer £1200 – This is the second most expensive item in our budget, but we agreed that as we are both creatives, the photos were very important to us. We love our photographer, and this is in fact very reasonable.
    Wedding clothes for bride, groom and attendants – £1700
    Rings – £600
    Flowers £250
    Cake – homemade, free! My Leiths trained friend and bridesmaid is making this.
    Invites – homemade, free! I work for a printing supplies company so all printing costs etc are free.
    £535 – ceremony, legal fees
    Band/DJ – a bit fuzzy on this one but about £500
    Decorations – £300. A ceramic artist friend is creating the centrepieces as our wedding presents, so this is really just for extras

    All in, plus our contingency budget we think we should come in at under £9k. I hope so, anyway…

  16. Total Budget: ~$4000
    Location: Small Town
    Guests: 75
    Budget Breakdown:
    venue – 350
    music – 100
    planner – 500
    dress – 500
    photography – 800
    food + drinks – 750
    invitations – 50
    cake – 350
    the rest goes to misc costs I can’t remember

    Biggest challenge: finding a good photographer

    I feel good about it. Got people together without breaking the bank and had a good time

    1. Thank you. My budget is also in the under/around 5 grand area and I really needed to hear that it can be done and people will have a good time with no regrets.

    2. I agree about the photography challenge! A friend of a friend is just starting to grow her photog business and she was the only person around to fit what I was willing to pay at the time. She ran $550 for 8 hours, but stayed the night before so we really had her for 24hours!

      I “got what I paid for” and spent a few days lamenting over the shots not capturing the true awesomness of the day. BUT there were about 2,000 picture posted by friends on FB to supplement missed shots and my photog was so cool, we are now good friends, and that is priceless. She just didn’t have experience and I knew that going in. Now I love my pictures for what they are and don’t wish more from them.

      In retrospect, I’m don’t think I would have shelled out more for someone else (i wasn’t about to beg grandpa for $$ so i could get more glamour shots), but I may have spent more time going over what shots were important to me and scheduling better.

      1. I’ve heard the suggestion that photography students looking to pad their portfolios might be an expensive way to get nice shots if you aren’t afraid of taking a chance with inexperience. Anyone have thoughts on that–that is, someone who possibly ISN’T setting off down the road of wedding photography with their ceer, but could use extra money and has a good eye ?

  17. I’m getting married in a week (!) in a very rustic outdoor ceremony outside of a big but pretty affordable city. We were planning for 100 people but it’s going to be closer to 85 in the end, and it’s likely to be around $18,000 in the end. (Though, maybe I should leave a follow-up comment next week to see if it actually worked out this way!).

    Here’s how that breaks down, roughly:
    $12,000 – reception (including what we think we’ll pay for an open bar)
    $2,000 – photographer
    $450 – cake
    $300 – flowers
    $900 – lodging for out-of-town guests the day before and the day of
    $1100 – dress
    $1200 – rings

    The dress and a big chunk of the reception will be paid for by my mother and father, respectively. That leaves us taking care of around $8000 ourselves.

    Despite that big number (and I am shocked as I write this), I don’t regret a penny. When I started planning the wedding I figured we could get away with the minimum possible in every category because that large number was terrifying to me. But I have just made sure at every step that the money spent feels good. So, we are really splurging on food and drink, and helping out-of-town guests with their accommodation. But we’re spending next to nothing on decor and flowers, handling the music ourselves, and getting a friend to officiate.

    There are things that were expensive that I don’t even feel should be included in that total, because that falsely indicates it’s only associated with the wedding. Like the rings, that we’ll wear all our lives, or my FH’s suit which he’ll get tons of wear out of (I haven’t included it). Or even the photos that will help us remember the day.

    I am of the same mental mindset as you, Meg, when it comes to money – an extreme saver who feels any excessive spending might lead me to the poor house – but the reality is, FH got a bonus this year, I had some money put aside, and we did what felt right and within our means at every step. I think that is what matters most, not just with weddings but with spending in general.

  18. Our budget (which did not include our rings/my dress [the total for those two items was $1000]) was $7000.

    We got married in a small town in rural Indiana and had about 170 guests.

    We spent about $2000 of that on food, and another $2000 on rentals: tent, chairs, tables, linens, etc. Our photographer was $1000, and the rest of the money covered our venue, flowers, etc. Honestly, now I’m wondering if my dress/rings IS included in that $7000. Getting married in a small town where we could use local vendors made our wedding incredibly affordable.

    We honestly didn’t have that many challenges related to money. My husband’s parents had just helped with his brother’s wedding, so they had a clear idea of what they wanted to pay. Maybe the hardest was trying ask my parents to only contribute what they could without putting anything on their credit card. I know they are very responsible, but I felt guilty for adding any credit card debt to their life. They wanted to do it and assured me it was an amount they could deal with.

    We are so happy with what we spent. We purposefully got married in a smaller town so that things would be more affordable. It also meant we could use businesses we worked for or enjoyed while we were in college. Our goal was to have a really fun beautiful day on a small budget and due to our location and the choices we made: simple food, inexpensive venue (our college’s cabin on a reservoir, etc, we were able to do it.

    1. You spent $2,000 on 170 guest? That means that the caterer or restaurant charged you $11.76 per person? You cannot even get that at Applebees. Please tell me how. So many of thebrides are listing such LOW prices on hear especially when it comes to food that it has me wondering if that includes a real dinner. Tip? I would just be careful when a restaurant or caterer offers you anything too cheap.

  19. What you spent on your wedding: about $11,000
    Where you live: Smallish mid-Atlantic city, probably high to mid-range cost of living. I read somewhere that the average wedding in that area is $30,000
    How big your wedding was: 70 people
    How that budget roughly broke down (How much was food? Venue? Dress?)
    Dress: $300
    Food & drinks: $3,000
    Venue: free
    Rentals (tent, tables, chairs, toilets, etc.): $6,500
    Flowers: $300 (DIT)
    Celebrant: $300
    Invitations: $150 (DIT)
    Random decorations, etc.: $250
    Photography: $100 (mostly collected photos from guests, but we paid my little sister’s friend to take pictures of each guest; kind of like a photo guest book, but not so formal. We just wanted to make sure everyone there was in at least one photo)
    Music: about $15 in new songs to boost up the iPod mix

    What your biggest challenge was: My parents were paying, and while we were all committed to staying within budget, it was sometimes difficult to negotiate where the money was spent. For example, my mother thought flowers and other decorative elements were very important, while my (now) husband and I thought we could rely on the beauty of our outdoor location and that spending on food and drinks were more important. Somehow it all worked out.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding: I wish we could have spent less, but it was a wonderful wonderful day, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.

  20. long-time lurker, never poster here, but I haven’t seen any small-town weddings listed so far, so here I go (caveat: the wedding is 29 days from today (!) so I don’t have the actual totals):

    town: very small (population less than 1,000) but within 35 miles of a city with about 2 million)

    guests: we’ve invited 230 but we expect to have between 140 and 180 guests (the place is hard to get to and most are from out of town)

    The reception venue included EVERYTHING in a per person price based on the food we chose for dinner. We are having a buffet with a chicken and cheese manicotti main entrees so the price was $45 per person after a one-time $200 deposit. This included all staff, tables, linens, and (this is the best part) an open bar for 5 hours with two beers, two wines and rail liquors. We expect the total costs to be between $6,300 and $8,100.

    We didn’t hire a florist, but instead my mother and I diy-ed centerpieces and favors and a friends mom is going to make bouquets. The total flower expenses have been around $700.

    My dress with alterations was $823. I’ve spent about $200 on other accessories (I made myself a velvet jacket and veil and bought some jewelry).

    The photographer is $1,500. I was surprised at the price of the photographers even in my small town. I ended up finding a more talented one closer to the city who charged exactly the same.

    Invitations I also made myself and they were a total of $260 counting the postage.

    The DJ is a gift from my brother, so that cost is $0.

    The cake will probably be about $525 (we haven’t given the final number to the baker yet).

    I believe the total will be somewhere around $14,000 including other small expenses. I wish I had been able to do some of the diy projects for less, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of them (I don’t want to pressure anyone into DIY! I just actually enjoy doing it and did all the projects as a way to keep myself sane.) As you can see the bulk of the budget is in the reception, but it seemed like a good deal.

  21. We set our budget goal at $15,000 to include honeymoon, ended up around $17,000 (I don’t know exactly). Paid for evenly among my husband, me and my parents. In the end, his parents also covered the rehearsal dinner. Coming from a small town, my oldest sister had a $5,000 wedding, so that’s what my parents contribute to each of us, no matter our situation. Mom deposited the money at the beginning and I never had to ask her to approve how we spent it – wonderful way to do it.

    My wedding was in the Twin Cities metro.

    The biggest items were:
    $6,000 venue and catering, including drinks (included wedding coordinator, servers and bartender, centerpieces, and other things I didn’t have to worry about)
    $4,000 honeymoon in Hawaii
    $2,100 photographers (don’t forget to budget buying prints after the wedding)
    $1,300 bride’s and bridesmaid’s attire, hair and makeup
    $600 men’s tuxes
    $600 cheesecake
    $600 flowers
    $400 church, officiant and musician
    $400 invitations, thank you cards and stamps (don’t forget the stamps)
    Plus a bunch of miscellaneous things

    The hardest for us was agreeing on photographers and flowers, because we valued those differently. I could’ve gone with farmers’ market or paper flowers and been happy. My husband could’ve completely skipped the photographers and been fine. I tried to tell him, “That’s just how much it costs to get a decent photographer,” but it still seemed too expensive to him. I mostly handled the budget and had to make a lot of the tough decisions myself, but I’m normally frugal so I think we did a good job of balancing the pressure to spend a lot with throwing a party we could afford.

    1. Oh, and we had 150 guests and our reception was a cocktail hour and appetizer/mashed potato buffet. Saved on having a typical plated dinner there.

  22. whoops, just seen that us undergraduates were supposed to sit this one out. Sorry Meg! (I’m the UK bride getting married in the West of England)

    I will just say that so far, that the biggest challenge is accepting that if we accept help from the parentals, we also have to be gracious about their input and and desired wedding guests. But we went into it with our eyes open, knowing that would be the case, and to be fair, my parents have been very hands off so far, only requesting a small guest list which turned out to include people that were on the main guest list anyway.

  23. So here goes-
    we got married in a capital city in Western Europe. We had 45 guests for the day (wedding ceremony, small reception/drinks type thing, dinner) and then another 45 or so for the evening, so 90 in total (party with canapes and dancing/dj).
    In total, we spent about EUR 13.000 on the wedding (so about 17000 USD) and another 4000 EUR on our three week honeymoon to south-east Asia.
    Breakdown (I have no clue if the numbers add up, by the way, but this is what I recall. ):
    my dress: 500 EUR
    accessories, shoes and underwear: 250 EUR
    husbands suit+ shirt+ sneakers: 700 EUR
    photography: (LOVED our photographer) EUR 600 for the day + evening
    dj: 400 EUR
    invitations: 200 EUR
    transportation for all day guests: 250 EUR
    hair and make up: 180 EUR
    wedding bouquet and 11 boutonnieres: 150 EUR

    day venue: EUR 2000 (including decorations and drinks)
    fee to actually get married (paid to municipality): 550 EUR

    evening location: 7000 EUR, including dinner, decorations, open bar and huge amount of drinks
    cake: 300 EUR

    We were pretty fortunate in that my parents offered to pay for the evening part, so that took away a big part of our financial worries; if they hadn’t, we’d just have downscaled the whole thing. For us, there were a few things that mattered the most and they reflected in what we spent the most on. We LOVE food so we wanted all the food to be really great and lots of it there. We also live across a lovely park in our city, and were desperate to get married there, or somewhere else within walking distance. Both our locations were within a 10 minute drive from our home and that sort of determined where we had our day and as a result, how much things cost. Things like my dress didn’t matter as much – I knew I wanted to look pretty but wasn’t that particular about it and found my dress in an outlet, and ended up spending less than half of what I’d planned…

    In hindsight, I would probably make the same decisions again. We just wanted a chill day with friends and family, wanted to keep it small so we wouldn’t spend all our time just greeting people we hadn’t seen for ages, and the food turned out to be amazing – so well worth it. Our wedding cake seriously was among the best cakes (wedding and otherwise) i’ve ever tasted :-)

    Biggest challenge: we didn’t have a long engagement, and this meant we really had to be very frugal throughout our engagement and really think every expense over carefully because there was little stretch in terms of how much we could manage to save for our day. That made me pretty cranky sometimes and there were moments that I couldn’t wait to just be married already, even if it were only so I could stop calculating and budgetting. Also, my in-laws insisted on giving us a VERY expensive present that we didn’t really want, and wouldn’t consider giving us something else (that we wanted or needed more) or contributing financially to the day… That put a bit of stress on us as a couple, trying to communicate with my in-laws and each other, and eventually deciding to -more or less – give up and just be grateful for what they did get us as a present.

      1. I also had to think to remember what things were, and it was only 4 months ago. I’m sure mine didn’t add up to the total we spent. There are always little things that don’t get a line-item in the budget that end up getting purchased. An extra pair of shoes, all the undergarments, the make-up, the premarital counseling, etc.

  24. If I’m completely honest (and I’m trying to be) the total budget was about $55K

    We got married in a popular vacation town near Boston, so pretty expensive as popular with tourists and now very popular for same sex weddings

    We had 125 pple

    My parents paid for the whole thing, which was incredible and amazing and for which we were totally grateful. and they only interfered in nice ways and didn’t hold it over our heads, which we were really lucky about.

    If this number seems ridiculously high it’s because I really tried to make a budget that was representative of the whole process of ‘getting married’ rather than just ‘the wedding.’ So therefore I include seemingly more random things like:

    – $1k = marriage visa
    – $1K = both of our airfare
    – $600 care hire for a week
    – $500-600 money for a few things leading up to the wedding that I put on the wedding budget like ‘getting healthy money’ and ‘grilling with friends in the days leading up to the wedding’ money
    – the subsidized accommodation we paid for for a few close friends who had supported us when we needed in the past but otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to come
    – 5K for wedding photogs who we loved and were worth every penny
    – lots of money for DIY/crafts/website/beautiful vintage plates and bottles etc all of which seemed like it would be cheaper than buying mass-produced things but really wasn’t. but was still worth it anyways.
    – $1200 for flowers even though we actually did the table flowers ourselves (florist did the bouquets/boutonnieres)

    If you *just* looked at what we spent on the ceremony/reception/wedding day itself, I’d say it was probably about $27,000

    Things that were stressful:

    – doing the final budgeting with my divorced parents who were awesome and agreed to split everything 50/50 but still brought up horrible stressy feelings on my part that they would fall out over it, or that my dad would think i was incompetent for not doing the budget properly (which he sort of did, despite my many years of excel spreadsheet goodness at work as a project manager)

    – wanting to spend the money ethically and responsibly so doing TONS of research to find independent artists and craftspeople to make things or work with friends. This was both stressful/time consuming and completely lovely and joyful and fun

    – another thing that is surprisingly stressful is how bad I feel about how much money we spent, even though actually the wedding didn’t feel extravagant or over the top at all (in fact it was all kinds of crafty and lovely and communal and rough around the edges). Mostly I feel weird because, as others have said, whenever money comes up on blogs etc it’s always to say how little someone spent, or what a bargain they got on X. We spent shit-tons of money, for us, for my parents (well-off though they are) but did it in a way that we tried to feel was inclusive. But if ever a money conversation comes up on a blog or wherever I’ll always feel a bit like slinking away through the backdoor…

    1. I don’t think $55k sounds extravagant. I live in Boston, and I know how expensive things are here, even if you move out of the city to some of the more “resorty” places. As I think Liz said a few days ago, in a major city it’s not hard to reach almost $100k without an ice sculpture in sight. Of course, most people have to scale back a bit from there, but budgets are personal and all about what’s important to you, what you can afford, and what makes you feel comfortable. Thank you so much for your honesty (I know how hard it is when budgets come up!).

    2. We got married in a resort town not far from boston that is very popular with Boston and NYC couples . Where we got married many places had event minimums that were $20-40K. 

      Finding a venue was one of our biggest stresses.  we knew we wanted a small 50-75 person wedding and man venues were ment more for 100+.  Also added in the challenge of deciding in March we wanted to get married that summer (in a place where venues can book up 2 years in advance.) We ended finding a place available on a holiday monday. It worked out PERFECTLY.  our venue is normally $5000 but we were able to get it for around $1500 by booking so late.  We were able to have a lunch rather than a dinner (lobster rolls included!)

      I don’t know what the final cost of our wedding was.  My parents very generously offered to pay for anything related to the reception while my husband and I paid for anything related to the ceremony and clothing. I think I offered to save money by cutting down on alcohol… at which point my parents stopped giving me final number on how much everything cost. I think we ended up at around $10-$15k.  That included everything but the honeymoon including a BBQ at my parent house after for around 60 people.

    3. I don’t think $55k sounds as extravagant when you factor everything in like you did. I said our budget was $18,500, but I didn’t add in our flights back to the US from Australia ($3,000), events leading up to the wedding like bachelor/ette weekend or dinners (probably $500), our rings including my engagement ring ($3000), our second reception celebration thingy in Australia (probably $2000), rehearsal dinner ($3,000) or our honeymoon (probably $3,000). And I am sure I am missing more costs. That gets ours up to $33,000. Wow. I never did that calculation.

      We were fortunate too, as the cost was split between my (divorced) parents, my husband’s parents, my husband’s grandmother, and us.

    4. I love that you chose to be honest and I can tell you that 55k doesn’t sound like too much in a bigger city at all. Have you ever gone out to eat in a big group ? Just taking 20 people out to a nice restaurant can cost over $3,000.

      I too am tired of brides almost competing to see who had the more frugal wedding. Who cares? If you can afford it, do it! Why not? If you had a great time and you spent the money like you wanted to, that is all that mattered. Also, at the end of the day, weddings support hundreds of local small businesses (cake makers, planners, photographers, florist) so you are helping the economy:). So everyone wins.

  25. I got married weekend before last.

    Total spent: ~$15000
    Location: Asheville, NC
    Size: 75 people
    Budget breakdown:
    -Venue: $2200
    -Food: $5000 (all local and organic, and a family friend did the cake)
    -Alcohol: $200 (my brother homebrewed beer, and we got a discount on wine)
    -Dress: $2200
    -Photographer: $1700
    -Music: $1750
    -Flowers: $570
    -Invitations: $200
    -Rental equipment: $250
    -Officiant: $100

    My biggest issue was finding an officiant, but it worked out just fine.I could have spent less overall, but I feel like I did pretty well not going overboard. It was a wonderful day, and I don’t think I would change much if I did it again.

  26. 1. Budget total: (rounded up for incidentals and converted to US$) about $8000

    2. We live in the biggest most expensive city in Australia (Sydney)

    3. We had about 35 people for a full a la carte lunch, followed by a party for 100ish people (canapes and drinks)

    4. Breakdown
    – Food/drink: $5000 (amazing amazing food!)
    – Photography: $700 (friend discount)
    – Official things (marriage license etc): $400
    – Rings: $500
    – Attire (bride + groom): $200 (amazing sale finds plus things we already owned)
    – Flowers: $400 (DIY)
    – Invitations $50 (DIY)

    5. Challenges? Not really. From the beginning we ruled out things that didn’t matter to us (favours, save the dates, bridal party, hair/makeup etc). This made things very affordable and allowed us to splurge on food and wine. We also split the costs between us and our parents so that $8000 became $2000 – 3000 for each paying couple.

    6. How do we feel about the budget now post wedding? Fine, although I am bummed that my husband already lost his ring. But mainly, I am glad we didn’t go over the top and choose things that didn’t reflect us as a couple and therefore would have been an unnecessary expense. That said, I do have some complicated feelings about having a wedding, and therefore spending that money in the first place. I love my partner. Things between us are fabulous, and we are deeply committed to each other but it was like this before we got married too and I sometimes think the wedding (while super fun) was just an expensive party. It didn’t really adjust our commitment to each other. The ‘other side’ for us is wonderfully exactly the same. So sometimes I think, ‘why did we spend that money?’. At least we have no wedding debt so this thought is less financially painful than it could be.

  27. Husband and I got married about 18 months ago in the suburbs of a larger midwestern city. Our wedding was about $11,000 (I think…this is the first time that I’ve really added up the numbers).

    Photographer – $3,000
    Rings – $3,000
    My clothes, hair, and makeup – $1,000
    Venue decorations – $100
    Catering – $1,500
    Flowers – $1,000
    Reception Venue – $500
    Invitiatons – $200
    Rehearsal dinner (for 35 people)- $1,000

    We invited about 250 people, and had about 175 between the wedding and the reception attend.

    We had a lot of help in making our budget. Husband’s family covered the rehearsal dinner; my parents paid for the flowers, reception, my dress, and the decorations; and Husband and I paid for the rings, photographer, and invitations. The biggest challenge was making the logical connection that we weren’t going to have a magazine worthy wedding with the money that we had. That led to a bit of arguing over how to spend the money (especially other people’s money) on things that weren’t important to us. (The 2008 Fight over Why The Bride Does Not Want Wedding Favors was pretty epic.)

    Looking back, I feel really good about the budget for our wedding. Husband and I came out of it with no wedding debt, which made our first year of marriage so much easier.

    1. Am I reading this correctly? You spent $1500 on catering for 175 people? That is $8.50 per person for food/drinks, tax and tip? Was that perhaps a typo.?

  28. Can I just say that I love that you’re doing this Meg – it really is the unspoken bit about weddings or so I have found. I’m either embarassed at how much or how little I’m spending depending on who I’m talking to and I don’t think I’ve told even my closest friends how much the final bill is. Sad, but true.

    I’m 8 weeks away from the ‘i-do do’ but a massive geek so everything is planned and paid for and Meg, fret not, there’s money left for an ‘oh pants’ moment in the next 8 weeks just in case it all goes horribly wrong

    Total spend £18k
    Budget £20k (so that’s £2k worth of ‘oh pants it’s all gone wrong’)

    City – London, UK, megabucks expensive

    152 people

    venue £3k
    food and drink £10k
    dress £1k
    flowers and decs £500(all being homemade)
    photography £300 (my friend is a wedding photographer and accepting only her travel and accomodation)
    Invitations and paper goods £200

    The rest is on accomodation for family and transportation

    Biggest challenges
    – being OK with the fact my Dad gave us this money to do as we choose. His justification was that he’d planned on buying 2 x weddings from the days my sister and I were born and he paid for hers so he’s paying for mine. Trying not to feel guilty that I’m spending more than I’ve ever seen on one day is not easy though and ‘thank you’ just doesn’t seem to cover it. I am fortunate that he has a good job and has the money, but even so, £20k!!!!!!!
    – trying to explain to my Mum why I WANT to do the flowers myself rather than spend the extra £2k on them
    – trying to figure out how to get LOTS of friends and family to share and be part of our day on what for London is not a big budget, the answer? get married in November and beg favours

    1. I just moved back from London in June after 2 years of living there, and after reading your post…I really miss hearing expressions like that :) And also the shocked expressions on some people’s face when Americans talk about pants NOT meaning undies :)

      good luck with the wedding!!

      1. Ha ha thank you – totally forgot that for you Americans ‘oh pants’ probably means nothing ! For those unlike jenn who haven’t experienced our funny little British-isms it would roughly translate as ‘oh f**k’
        but you’re all bright so you got that even if I do talk funny

  29. THANKS EVERYONE – it is really nice to be able to talk about money in a safe place!

    I’m an undergraduate as well, but most of our numbers are final(ish).

    Budget – €22,000
    Where – European capital city (v. high cost of living)
    Who – 70 people (traveling from other countries)
    On what –
    catering and venue: €8,000 (which also includes most flowers & alcohol)
    Photography: €2200 including albums.
    Honeymoon: €3,000 on our honeymoon
    welcome reception :€1,500 (instead of a rehearsal)
    Music (band & DJ): €950
    dress: €350
    suit €240
    Rings: €560
    (cup)cake: €160 (i am so proud of this one.)

    The rest of the stuff (as I remember it) was little things, that added up ridiculously quickly, but didn’t hurt as much coming out of the bank account. We’re paying for it about 50% ourselves, 50% parents.

    We looked at a lot of places that were much, much cheaper per person, but we decided to choose a venue that we loved loved loved that had great character (and wouldn’t need much decoration or flowers) and really great, ethical, food (all organic & wild!). Plus it included a lot of other things (like centerpieces) that we wouldn’t have to worry about. Ease & convenience = key.

    Spending this much money has hurt at times. We had huge discussions about spending this much on our venue/catering and photographer. In the end, it was okay bc those were important to us. I didn’t feel comfortable spending the money I originally had for a hairdresser, or a makeup artist though (which were waaaay more expensive than I thought they would be) so we nixed those. And spend the money instead on things I never expected to care about – like our cake topper.

  30. What you spent on your wedding: Everything together cost $28,000, of which $9,000 was our personal money. The rest was a combination of my mom (about half of the total), then pieces here and there from his parents, his grandma, and my dad. I am not counting the rehearsal dinner in this figure, as his parents hosted and I have no idea what they spent.

    Where you live (Big city? Small town? Expensive area? Affordable area?): Annapolis, MD, where a $30-40K wedding is really standard.

    How big your wedding was: 130

    How that budget roughly broke down (How much was food? Venue? Dress?): I was real nerdy and kept an exact spreadsheet detailing what the budget was, what the actual costs were, and how it all broke down so I could keep track of our total wedding budget “footprint” as well as how much of our money was going into this thing.
    About half went toward the reception, like all the wedding budget books say it will.
    My dress was $2,000 — which I only got because my mom paid for it and insisted I not worry about cost but get a dress that I love (and I did).
    Flowers were $2,000… and the only part that I regret because I unknowingly hired a wedding monster as a florist.
    Photos were $3900, including a high-res DVD of images (but no album)
    My ring was $800, his was $400.

    What your biggest challenge was: I was determined to not ASK anyone for money, but was absolutely willing to graciously accept if anyone offered. At the beginning, my mom kept saying that “maybe I can help pay for that” without being specific at ALL in terms of dollars, and it was very stressful because it felt like a total power play on her part. I knew that if I went along with what she wanted, she’d be willing to put in more, but that was unsaid, as well as ALL the dollar amounts. She just said I shouldn’t “cheese out on things”– which, what does that mean when I have no idea how much I’ll need to personally pay for?!?! Eventually, I got her to give me a solid number ($10,000 plus the dress), which eased my mind a LOT and made me feel like I was back in the driver’s seat. The number didn’t matter, just that I knew what my wedding budget was.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding: I feel good. Our plan all along was to spend less than $10K of our own money on this thing, which we did. We would have gladly thrown an entire wedding for $10K, but were able to have a much more expensive wedding with input from our families. Sometimes I think they were horrified into contributing, when, say, his grandma learned that we’d be doing our own flowers to save money. So she decided that she wanted to pay for a florist. And that was totally fine with us.

  31. The wedding was in upstate New York.

    We had 54 guests.

    We spent about $9,000.

    Honestly it’s hard to remember the breakdown of costs, but I think it’s something like this: We spent about $3,500 on catering (buffet-style dinner and cake and all catering rentals) and an additional $800 on alcohol. We got an incredibly talented photographer who undercharged us at $1,000. We spent about $1,000 on clothing. Venue fee, rental car, and rental apartment came to another $1,500. Invitations were about $250. Rings were $800. Flowers were $200. Rehearsal dinner was $250.

    All in all I’m very happy with what we spent and how we spent. We had great wine and great food and supported local businesses we really love. My only budget regret is that I spent very little on my dress, and I didn’t love it. If I had not been so strict about my budget on that point, I might have allowed myself to find something I loved more.

    1. Oh, I forgot to add that the greatest challenge was negotiating budget priorities with my husband. There were tears. And, as I mentioned, my focus on the bottom line put me under unnecessary stress. What can I say, I’m my own worst enemy.

  32. This post comes at a great time for me, because three months after our wedding, I still feel that we didn’t handle the budget right and it bothers me, a lot. I expected to have to pay for the wedding ourselves, and wasn’t unhappy about it. My mom has been the main breadwinner in my parents’ household for the past fifteen years, and she was laid off (twice!) in the last year. My husband’s parents have six kids, one of which they are current putting through college and two more still in a rather expensive private elementary school, which they sacrifice a lot to be able to afford. In addition, they are also a one-income family without set paychecks, so they can’t plan too far ahead on big purchases. I liked the idea of a small wedding. I wanted to do my own flowers, thought about self catering desserts and coffee, had no high expectations for my dress– I was ready to spend maybe 2 grand and be done, and do without whatever we had to.

    My mother’s ideas on this were quite different. She wanted to pay for the wedding- she had a 401K that she had never really used, and didn’t have enough money in it to bother saving for retirement. She told me it was “3 or 4 thousand dollars”. I never got more specifics than that. We’re in the suburbs of Atlanta, so not the cheapest area, but not super-expensive. My husband’s parents also told us they would like to contribute $1500 to catering.

    Mom couldn’t imagine doing anything herself that couldn’t be done before the week of the wedding. That meant no self-catering, no doing our flowers. I couldn’t do it without her support, and I wasn’t going to get it. She was willing to do DIY projects– and in fact threw together a couple of things that I didn’t even plan to have, like programs and a guest book. And she did make my dress ($600 on supplies for that). Overall, I felt like because she was holding the purse strings and refused to give me a definite number on how much she had, we ended up spending more than we should have. It made it really hard for me to budget our contributions, and in the end, I felt like we spent money on things that we didn’t need, invited more guests than we could afford, and generally lacked communication.

    Overall, I would guess that we spent between $6000 and $10,000. That’s still a low number for our area. As close a breakdown as I can give:

    Venue: $1000 (a historic plantation house owned by the county)
    Photography: $1200 (my father is a photographer and one of his photographer friends gave us a GREAT deal)
    Catering: $2700 dollars, including linen rentals
    Flowers: ???? More than I would have paid, given that we were supposedly not charged for labor by the friend who did them. She does floral arrangement professionally, and I think there was still a large mark up from what we would have paid had we bought the flowers ourselves. Mom “couldn’t remember” the final total, but the deposit was $800. Plus they had those stupid sticks in them and if there had been time I would have redone them myself anyway.
    Dress: $600 and hours and hours of Mom’s time
    Groom’s Attire: $350
    Bridesmaids’ Dresses/Groomsmens’ Ties: $200- our friends are poor, and I know it.

    There were a lot of other incidentals, like the cake topper, the programs, the guest book, the flower girl basket and ring pillow- most of these were bought as needed and the money came from our bank account, but I never added it all up, and I’m sure there are things I bought that I’ve forgotten about completely because they were last minute must-haves.

    We spent much less than average. We still spent more than we could afford, especially at the end when my mom ran out of money and we had to pay for the rest because she hadn’t budgeted, and refused to give me a solid number that I could budget with. Given the chance to do it over, I think that rather than going through the hassle of dealing with it, I would have turned down the money and planned the wedding without her– I would have felt much better about our choices and it would have been a lot more “us”, because as it was I let my mom railroad over me because I felt she was the one footing the bill.

    1. Wow, that sounds like a tough and frustrating situation – that you hndled as well as any person could given the circumstances. It’s hard when someone is trying to help and it just causes frustration and stress.

      I’m sorry you’re feeling uneasy about it, because there really wasn’t anything else you can do in a situation like that other than what you did. Seriously though, at this point, it’s money spent. You can’t get it back, so try (as hard as it may be!) to just put it behind you and enjoy being married!

  33. Oh, this is a good exercise – I admit that I haven’t officially added everything up because I was a bit scared of the total. Originally we were hoping to spend $10K – $12K, but we went quite a bit over, about $17K or so. That said, each time we knew we were committing to go beyond our budget, we talked through the reasons why and made sure we were comfortable. We had 165 guests and live in the DC area (which can get expensive fast when you’re planning a wedding!). The break out is below, but I want to answer the question about the challenges before that:

    One of the hardest things when it came to money was not spending more than we planned but was that my parents were unable to help at all. And I want to be clear – it was okay that they did not help pay for our wedding. Initially, early on, my husband and I spoke to our parents to see if they could each help with about $3K. From the beginning I was worried about financially burdening my parents, but I also knew that they would want to help. I made it very clear that they didn’t have to commit anything, that I’d rather they just be upfront if they could contribute financially, that I knew they would/already had supported us in so many other ways. (And, though my husband lost his job and things were tight for a little bit, it soon because clear that we’d be able to handle the wedding expenses, though it would keep us from saving too much). Still, they said they could help. Then 3 months in, I could tell that it wasn’t going to happen, and we talked about it, and I just felt so so awful for so many reasons. I felt awful for having to push them on it (but we needed to know so that we could plan accordingly), though at the same time angry that they weren’t upfront with me; I felt awful for my husband – it was okay for me to be affected by my parents, but it was hard to invite him into this dynamic (especially when his parents were contributing), and on and on. But, the good news was, that after we were all on the same page about their inability to help us financially, all was okay. We moved on, and they contributed in other ways, my husband was nothing but completely supportive and understanding, and everything was paid for (without having to financially burden them).

    Okay, this is way too long. The break out is below, and I think I feel great about it – mostly because we had wonderful vendors, and I was so happy to support them!

    (in fact, after looking at it all broken out, I think we did pretty well – if only we had known someone with a house and back yard that could have accomodated, and we would have been pretty close to budget),

    Okay, so here are the basics: Bride Attire $850 (includes dress, alterations, shoes, jewelry), Groom attire $1000 (he’s fancy), Venue $2600, Tent and sound system $1900, Caterers $6700 (includes tip), Alcohol/drinks $400 (we could bring our own and we just had beer and wine), Rings $1650, Shuttle $450, decorations $150 (mostly just candles and mason jars, include bouquets that my sisters made), cakes and cupcakes $270, ceremony music $150 (friend), photography $550 (we totally lucked out, super talented craigslist find), invitations/paper $250 (printable press! that includes stamps, envelopes, etc), favors made by my sister $200, other gifts $250 (officiant was free but gave her thank you gift, etc, Rehearsal dinner $400 (for 55 people, rented a room in our apartment building for $130 did food ourselves with a lot of help from friends and family).

    1. Can you give more details on your beer and wine selections? We’re looking at a place that lets us bring our own and I wondered if you had suggestions for reasonably-priced wine or bottled beer vs. kegs…? Thanks!

    2. It was great to read this post! I’m in the process of trying to find a DC area venue for our wedding, and am seeing some pretty huge (and super scary) numbers. Do you mind sharing your venue? And I would love the name of that great find photographer if possible!!
      Thanks so much!

      1. Sure! The venue was the Hendry House in Arlington, VA. I know it felt super affordable when comparing to so many other DC places for more than 100 people, though it definitely added up (tent fee, plus have to provide a tent, rentals, etc), but they’re wonderful to work with AND they let you find your own caterer, etc and the atmosphere was just what we wanted (outside). You can find my photographer, Jen Cui, here: http://www.jcuiphotography-blog.com/ (which is giving away my identity a bit, if you’re savvy!). I strongly recommend her!

      2. Hi! Saw the mention about DC – yesterday I was getting our car fixed in Alexandria and the mechanic started talking about his wedding (I’m getting married in 3 weeks and therefore tried to talk down car expenses). ANYWAYS, he told me how they found a great deal at the Hilton in Old Town – great location for guests since it’s near the airport. What was more interesting was how the deal was because of Memorial Day – the three-day federal holiday somehow prompted deals since everyone splits town. You’d never think it for a long weekend, but something to explore!

  34. I’m queen of the spreadsheets, so I still have all the numbers…

    We ended up spending more than we initially intended, we paid for the wedding ourselves, but his parents threw us a rehearsal dinner and I don’t have the numbers on that. I’ve included everything becuase we went over our initial budget by around $4000. When we made our first budget, we didn’t think about all the little things that add up.

    ■What you spent on your wedding: $12,901.92
    ■Where you live: Richmond, VA, medium city, but not overly expensive
    ■How big your wedding was: 120 guests, 4 hours, outdoors in the evening in a garden behind an historic house/museum in the middle of the city
    ■How that budget roughly broke down:
    •Catering: $2961 (very heavy hors d’oevres, but substantial: shrimp and grits, a couple types of mini sandwhiches, pasta, veggies, includes tips for staff)
    •photography: $1575 (lucky to have a close friend who’s an excellent wedding photographer, his regular rate would have been $5000)
    •Location rental: $1200 (7 hours, because you have to pay for set up and clean up time too!)
    •tables, chairs, linens, string lights:$1169 (guess what! when you have a garden wedding you have to rent all this stuff)
    •wedding planner: $1100 (should have just recruited a friend to keep things rolling the day of)
    •dress and alterations: $550 and $320
    •flowers: $699.55 (bought some potted flowers ourselves to keep prices down)
    •DJ: $625 (for ceremony and reception music)
    •cake: $525.68
    •groom’s suit: $450
    •alcohol: $400 (beer/wine, lots left over)
    •Officiant: $350
    •invitations and postage:$200 (we made these ourselves)
    •attendant/parent gifts: $195
    •acrylic glassware with personalize labels: $100 (we made these ourselves)
    •centerpieces:$20 (made these ourselves)

    ■What your biggest challenge was: Convincing the planner that our wedding would be beautiful even if we didn’t spend alot of extra money on things like sparkling table cloths.

    Actually, the only thing I would really change is that I would ditch the wedding planner. We’re both creative people and were able to make alot of things ourselves which didn’t go over well with the planner and I hired her before discovering APW and didn’t really know at the time how to verbalize the simplicity we were going for. If I hadn’t been in a panic to find “help” I would have researched more and either realized I could do it myself, or interviewed to find a planner who fit our personalities better. Most of my pre-wedding stress was created by the planner, and that should be the person who’s reducing stress!

    ■How you feel about your budget post-wedding: we had an amazing time celebrating with our family and friends and I wish I hadn’t spent so much time stressing and thinking about how much money we were spending. However, I am very happy we kept prices as low as possible and did not put anything on a credit card, so it was all paid for and done.

    1. I noticed that you and someone else said they spent $400 on beer and wine. Can you tell me how you broke it down and what kinds of beer and wine you got? And maybe if you had kegs or bottles of beer? We can bring our own alcohol and are planning on just beer and wine and I’m not sure how to budget for it. Thank you!!!

      1. we were originally going to bring our own booze, and found it EXTREMELY helpful to just go to a beer/wine distributor and have a sit-down. we told him what the majority of our friends like to drink and he was able to give us an estimate of what to buy. really, really helpful.

      2. We spent around $400 on beer and wine for 165 people. We didn’t do anything extravagant (which was hard because we love beer and would have loved to splurge here, but as you may have found, it’s all about compromise, especially when it comes to the things you personally want!). It was about $120 for a keg of Yeungling (which we didn’t come close to finishing), and then the rest on Trader Joe’s bottles of wine that ranged from $4 – $6 each (can’t remember how many we got – 3-4 cases). Oh, and the $4 bottles went towards a low maintenance sangria (just strawberries and mint) – no one minds cheap wine in sangria! Our reception about only about 3 hours long, which probably was a factor in how much/little was consumed.

      3. just jumping in here – we found sites like this Sort of helpful: http://www.thatsthespirit.com/en/drinks/party_calculator.asp

        it at least gives you a ballpark. If you’re just doing beer and wine you can put 0% for spirits.

        We also had a hard time figuring out how much red vs. white vs. sparkling, and what types of beer to provide – didn’t find as many resources getting that specific online, but Total Wine staff helped a bit.

        I wish I could remember the exact breakdown of what we bought for ours so I could actually be helpful, but I know for our wedding, the white wine was more popular than red, and sparkling wasn’t much at all (we didn’t do a champagne toast, it was just there if people wanted it throughout the evening). We picked all regional microbrews for the beer and had a ton left over – probably if we’d gone with something lighter, the beer would have gone faster (lots of our friends that were expected to drink a lot of beer, didn’t drink as much because they’re used to drinking a ton of Miller Lite, not Starr Hill Amber Ale or whatever).

      4. We spent more than $400 on booze (we really really like wine), but we had several cases left over. For better or for worse it was our favorite wine that was mostly left so we had a bottle on our one month-versary the whole first year. Yum. So we overspent I guess, but it worked out just fine.

        Anyway, we bought at the Bevmo $0.01 sale, where the second bottle is essentially free. I don’t know if we saved money that way, but it let us buy nicer wine, which was our priority.

        So, to calculate, the event planner guideline is 6 glasses of wine per bottle, and calculate one drink per guest per hour(ish). We found people drank less because they were flying home/ it was the early afternoon/ it was hot/ they were busy talking. But s’ok, we decided we’d WAY rather have too much booze than run out ;)

        1. We had SEVENTEEN cases of beer left over. SEVENTEEN. My in laws supplied the wine and beer and my parents paid for the hard stuff, and I think the in laws calculated the wine and beer as though wine and beer were the only offerings. We will be drinking wedding beer for aaaaaages. At every family gathering we drink our wedding beer.

          1. lucky for us – the place we’re getting our booze/beer/wine from will let us return it if it’s unopened (and it wasn’t held in water damaging the labels.) They even come and pick up the extra from the venue for a charge and you don’t ever need to think about it again except for the refund to your card.

            So yes, plan to overspend and not run out of booze.

            Huge perk. Though surely we will keep some bottles of wedding beer and wine :)

        2. I second trying to find a liquor store who will let you returned unopened wine/beer. I had to plan an event for work and we found a place that did that. If you’re going to make a pretty decent purchase from them most of them are pretty accommodating if you just ask. Or perhaps they’d allow you to return up to 10% of it or something… it never hurts to try to work out a deal with them.

      5. Our wedding booze was through the caterer, but we bought WAY too much beer for our rehearsal dinner. We were carting it around in a cooler all weekend and drinking in our hotel room with our friends after every other wedding event. It was kind of fun.

    2. I have the spreadsheets going too. Everything is recorded as the money is spent. Thank you for that $1.92… makes my heart happy to know there’s a kindred spirit out there ;-)

  35. $42,000 for 200 guests in the Chicago suburbs. In June. My parent’s paid for everything. Not included are the rings and honeymoon (which we paid for) or the rehearsal (which the groom’s parents covered).

    Food: $22,000 – This was Hors D’oeuvres, a sit-down dinner, 6 hours of open bar and dessert (mousse, no cake), provided by the venue

    Decorations and Favors: $3000 – Chocolates, Centerpieces and an arch for the ceremony

    Taxes: $3000 – The sales tax rate in this area is 9.22%. When you are spending like we did this became a pretty major expense – our 3rd highest. Luckily we noticed early enough to budget for it. You’re welcome, Illinois.

    Venue: $2600 – Ceremony and Reception

    Photographer: $2400

    Dress: $1300

    Invitations, Programs, etc: $1200 – Etsy

    Floral: $1000 – All our “floral” items were made of feathers. They’ve been repurposed as home decor.

    DJ: $700 – We made our own playlist and paid a friend for the use of his equipment.

    Beauty: $500 – Mani/Pedi, Make-up and Hair for Bride and Maid of Honor

    I’d say our biggest problem was finding less expensive options for things we didn’t care much about and didn’t want to slurge on. Obviously we spent a ton of money but there were things (like placecards) that we just didn’t care about and refused to spend a lot on.

    Post-wedding I feel pretty good about our budget. When my mom first floated what she called “a reasonable number” I choked and freaked out and couldn’t imagine spending that amount, but she promised me that they wanted to spend the money, wouldn’t incur any debt over it and still had enough cash on hand to take a 2-week cruise to Hawaii the month after our wedding. Which they did. And they totally deserved it. So there were certain things we insisted on paying for ourselves (like our own transportation and hotels), but in the end my parents were *so happy* to do it that it was fine.

    Since we were so lucky to be lavished on this way (and our honeymoon was more than covered by cash wedding gifts) we resolved to buy everyone who gets married for the next ten years really, really, really nice wedding gifts. That’s how we’re paying it forward.

    1. The sales tax rate in this area is 9.22%. When you are spending like we did this became a pretty major expense – our 3rd highest. Luckily we noticed early enough to budget for it. You’re welcome, Illinois.

      I smiled at this. Our sales tax is 12% (and that’s down from the 14% it’s been most of my life!) Different places, different expectations!

      1. I live in the south now and they tried to raise sales tax from 6.00% to 6.25% and there were practically riots. This may or may not be related to the deplorable condition of public education here. Just a theory.

  36. We are a short period of time before our small city wedding on the East Coast, and here’s where we are now:

    $1900 venue
    $4200ish food
    ???? alcohol (open bar billed by consumption)
    $3200 photographer (cheapest package)
    $500 invitations, save the dates, & thank you notes
    $445 florist
    $1000 rings (metal is EXPENSIVE right now, even if you have something handmade)
    $300 band
    $1000 suit (invested in a new one to last for 10 years)
    $525 dress
    $600 gifts for parents & wedding party
    $200 at least in additional things I’m not thinking of right now
    Total ~$16,000, about 6k more than we were originally planning for, and for under 100 guests. Notice we completely skipped things like favors, welcome bags, shuttle buses (this may prove to be a mistake, but…hopefully it’ll all work out), professional hair or makeup, etc. Of course, I invested in a lot of stuff to be able to do my own hair and makeup, but since I’ve used it since the moment I bought it and will far into the future, I’m pretending that’s not wedding-related.

    Biggest challenge – jeepers, everything about it has been a challenge, despite turning to untraditional places and friends for help. At every turn, family encouraged us not to DIT or DIY or get friends to do it given most guests do not live in our city to help. Many things we looked into doing ourselves regardless, and decided to skip it (a year before, the October farmers market flowers were surprisingly hideous, for example). And frankly, we weren’t that psyched about DIY anyway – planning together was stressful enough (it’s the first major ‘thing’ we’ve planned together, and whoa baby do we have different planning styles). When we made the mistake of asking for opinions, we got opinions like “that invite doesn’t look formal enough, too much like one for a dinner party.” Now we’re pleased with our choices, but still feeling guilt over whether people will be ok with our untraditional modifications in order to save money (we hear you exactly, Liz). Then again, (after agonizing over every decision for months) we always went with more expensive choices to support local businesses that were interested in sustainable ‘green’ options or who were personally important, and we feel REALLY good about using our money to support our values and these vendors. We claimed all along we were paying for it ourselves in order to keep creative control, but our parents have helped significantly, which has been a huge relief. This doesn’t count the rehearsal dinner at all, which one set of parents wanted to cover & plan, and though it makes me uncomfortable to have someone else do so much fussing & spending over us, I’m trying to sit back & enjoy and ignore my anxiety.

    We’ve really struggled with all our decisions, and that hosting the wedding in the city where we live has resulted in at least 50% of my family (all of whom I love and adore, and luckily no one in the immediate family) choosing not to attend. We’ve done a lot of “in retrospect” thinking as a result, debating if we should have done our original plan of a backyard wedding at my mother’s, but concluded that while that would have worked fine, it would have been more about where I came from and my family/community, then it would have been about our life together and the new family we’re creating. It bothers me that the family assumes we should have the wedding in the bride’s hometown, which seems archaic and arbitrary (except in our case it also would have been the hometown of 70% of the invitees…and somehow I still feel guilt that they now have to travel, but I’m trying to let that go). Any other location would have been a destination wedding for us. And realistically, almost every wedding is a destination for some of the guests.

    Hrm, it seems I’m going to have to use the last few weeks before our wedding to work on acceptance and letting go of guilt. If they agreed to come, they’ll love it, just because it’s our wedding.

    1. I had similar thoughts about what city to have the wedding in. My home town represented my past (and my parents’ present), my city at the time of planning was my present, and the city we had it in was my husband’s hometown where he lived (and where we live now), so that was my future and his only place of community. And each location meant different people could come and different people would not come. It was such a painful decision and it took various spreadsheets, conversations with my partner, my parents, friends, and many tears to come to our decision. And I am thankful with the results. And still a little sad that no one location could have sufficed to include everyone we would have liked to include…. :(

  37. For absolutely everything we spent about $12k. The goal was $10k and we planned to fund it ourselves. We had a bbq for 120 guests at a venue near Boston.

    So, the breakdown:
    Dress & suits, accessories, and getting pretty – $750
    Venue with beer/wine bar – $7.5k
    Photographer (cousin) – $900 including the album
    Invites & postage (made myself, so $80 of this is stamps alone) – $120
    Flowers (if you live in the Boston area, go to stop & shop) – $250
    DIY Favors & place cards – $150
    Gifts – $250
    Church fees – $750
    DJ – $650
    Honeymoon (2 nights away) – $600
    Transportation – We got rides, so this part was free.

    Thinking about how much money goes into weddings gives me mixed emotions. We all read APW because we believe in marriage, not weddings and certainly not the wedding industry. Thinking economically, I know that I could have used twelve thousand dollars for many other things that may or may not have been worthy purchases. And, even now, I know that I could have found a cheaper venue/caterer. However, the emotional side of me thinks that every single penny was worth it. My husband and I put together a celebration completely reflective of us and that is something to cherish. Seeing all sides of our personalities reflected in the party and all the people there was priceless. For us, the wedding brought our families together. Smiles were shared, generational photos were taken, past wedding stories were told, and memories were made. From that perspective, $12k seems like a bargain!

    1. Trader Joes also has great flowers. They were our backup florist :). (Our primary florist was the flower lady at our local farmers market.)

    2. Would you mind sharing the name of the venue too? I am so curious to know, and this thread is extremely helpful. But I don’t want to jump all over the posts on this chain!

  38. We spent about £13,000 including the honeymoon (I think). But I actually have very little idea about the exact figures as we just spent what we felt was reasonable for essential things.

    We lived in London, UK, but our wedding was in our old university town in the West Country. It was a split venue wedding, with the ceremony at our university chapel, the reception out in the countryside.

    We invited about a 100 people. No children. A lot of friends who eat and drink a lot. We paid for everything for all our guests save their accommodation/arrival costs.

    Budget: Venue (we hired a country house & then hired a marquee) – £4000
    Food: £1000 inc main meal, tea, coffee and cake (local supplier, hog roast)
    Crockery/linens: £500? I honestly can’t remember but we bought/collected it all (vintage) ourselves. We still have it (some divided amongst family)
    Drinks: £1300 (husband is a wine merchant, we supplied all champagne, wine, beer, soft drinks – we did not have a ‘bar’ so this included all drinks for all people for the entire day)
    Clothes: £500 (bride’s dress, shoes, accessories etc), £200 bridesmaids, £150 groom’s shirt and shoes. He wore a vintage suit which my sister-in-law tailored to fit)
    Car: £500
    Photographer: £950
    Flowers: £100 (wholesale peonies we arranged ourselves
    Stationery: £100 (we made invites, programmes and thank you cards ourselves using basic Smythson writing cards)
    Church (inc hiring chapel, Archbishop’s Licence, organist fee, choir, & chaplain’s time) £1000
    Rings: ? (my husband paid)
    Honeymoon: (£600 accommodation costs, misc other costs) total unknown – we honeymooned in Cornwall, went to a festival and so perhaps spent £1000 – 1200 in total.
    Other costs: £1000 (presents, petrol, taxis, various family accommodation costs, generator)
    Music: DJ and band were friends who played as our wedding present.

    The two hardest things about the budget were:
    1. My parents and husbands parents each contributed money. My parents expected to have more say over what they contributed than husbands did. We funded the rest.
    2. I was made redundant a month before the wedding and then was out of work for 8 months afterwards. We had not budgeted for this as I was expecting to be earning for the time we were away (3 weeks).
    I was comfortable with what we spent as we felt it was not excessive but allowed us to have an excellent day. The only thing I would change is more budget for a better photographer.

  39. What we spent: $9,000-$10,000ish, split three ways between us and each of our families. We tried to be conscious of our spending without budgeting every dime and making ourselves crazy.
    We live in an affordable area in Upstate NY.
    125 guests, home ceremony with a buffet country club reception.
    It still feels like a hella amount of money but I’m not missing it and it was the kick@ass party we dreaed of!

  40. My parents paid for almost everything. While my husband and I would have been happy to have a much more modest affair, this was a great source of joy for my mom and she had a lot of fun planning it. This is in the Northeast where shit’s expensive. The wedding cost a staggering amount of money but it didn’t FEEL like we were burning wheelbarrows full of cash the day of – it felt like a wedding, an awesome wedding. And my parents swear they don’t regret a cent of it.

    $5,500 – venue (ceremony and reception) at historic mansion. I totally hated saying “mansion” – it felt so icky to me – but the spot was beautiful. Was it worth $5,500? Probably not. Would I have been just as happy at another spot? Most definitely. But it was beautiful and it was convenient and it was handy to have a place that specialized in weddings. We paid a premium to not have to worry about some things.

    $150 – music. Rented equipment for a sound system that we hooked up to a laptop. The sound was bad (a flukey thing that should not discourage you from going this route), but the price was right and greatly pleased my father.

    $5,000 – flowers. I KNOW. I know. Totally not my doing.

    $3,000 – photographer, including a small album but excluding prints. My mom is planning on getting a more expensive album that will add $1,000 (!!!) to the cost.

    $15,000 – catering for 120. The food was delicious and was some of the best wedding food we’ve ever had. Again, could have been less and no one would have minded. But hiring a caterer is expensive.

    $1,000 (estimate) – wine and beer.

    $400 – makeup. I KNOW. Don’t get me started. Totally could have gone without this.

    $200 – my hair, including dye job.

    $1,200 – my dress. It was custom made and silk. FWIW my friend looked at it and thought it cost five times that.

    $1300 – my engagement ring, custom made. We paid for this.

    $2300 – wedding rings and my jewelry. The jewelry thing was cooked up by my mom. The price of gold freaking killed us – it was triple what it had been before the financial meltdown.

    $700 – calligraphy for a thing for the ceremony including $500 for framing.

    $2,500 – husband’s suit (estimate, as my mom wouldn’t let me know what she paid). Custom made, Italian wool, I KNOW, but at least unlike me he can wear it again and amortize that over the years.

    $1,000 (estimate) food and drink for brunch the next day.

    $500 – miscellany crafty shit I did at the end, mostly to calm my jangled nerves and channel nervous energy into productive pursuits.

    $300 – invitations, including postage. Printable Press FTW.

    $50 (estimate) – cake. Homemade.

    $1,000 – week long honeymoon aka the best money we spent.

    1. I had a custom made silk/lace dress for which the supplies alone cost $600. If you were paying for the labor as well, $1200 is still a very, very good price! I’m sure it was lovely, and in some cases it’s totally worth it to pay for exactly what you want.

      1. Yes, I think it was a very fair price for the labor involved. We did go with less expensive silk dupioni which helped. (My mom’s dress cost almost as much as mine, because she went all out with lace.)

        One thing I’d note is that in nearly every case we worked with people we really enjoyed, some of whom were longtime family friends, and spending money to support them was often a joyful thing. Like it was our own little stimulus package.

    2. i am SO behind the custom italian suit purchase. we buy designer gowns and expect our poor men to wear chinsy and ill-fitting clothes. good for you!

      1. Oh man, I WISH I could have gotten my husband a custom suit. He said, “Why do I need another suit? I have 8. And I’ll never get to wear a tux again.”

        Now he really wants a tux of his own.

        1. good man!

          try old man stores- we got josh’s tux from jos. a bank. they have half-price-tuesdays or something where everything in the store is half off. so the dinner jacket was like $300. still some cash. but not as much.

          soon after, we read an interview with the costume director for mad men that said, “a REAL man owns his own tux” and josh gave me a smug grin.

          the only problem with old man stores is they have old-man-cut clothes. so you just need to make a stop at a tailor (which is recommended anyway)

  41. Total Spent: a little less than $10,000
    Location: Washington, DC
    Guests: 35
    $5,000 for food/drink (sit-down dinner, beer and wine) and the location rental
    $1,600 for wedding rings
    $1,000 for the most awesome photographer
    $750 for our wedding outfits
    $350 for a sign language interpreter (my little sister is deaf)
    $225 for invitations and a Quaker wedding certificate
    $75 for flowers (which we bought at Whole Foods and a friend arranged)
    The rest was miscellaneous stuff – our marriage license, favors, getting my hair done, etc.

    Biggest challenge? Getting okay with the budget growing. I had originally hoped to do the whole thing for $7500, but it just became clear that we weren’t going to be able to do that without cutting things that were important to us.

    I still feel good about what we spent. We were lucky in that our families helped – the split was about 40% family/60% us. I didn’t want to go into debt for our wedding, and we were able to pay for everything as it came, so I feel good about that.

    1. Also, we spent another $2500 on the honeymoon which we paid for ourselves. Definitely the best money we spent. :)

      1. Of course! I would love to send folks her way. Her name is Eva Russo and her website is http://www.photoladylove.com/. I found her through another photographer who was way out of my price range (I got the price list and said, oh, that’s my whole wedding budget!). When I emailed nicely to say she was great, but we couldn’t afford her, she said, well what are you looking to spend and hooked us up with Eva. She’s Richmond-based, and was looking to get into the DC market, which I think helped with keeping the price down. She was great to work with, I would really recommend her.

      2. I just checked her site and her pricing is higher than that now, but I think she would definitely work with you to figure out coverage that’s in your price range. We didn’t get prints or an album, for example, just the images on DVD.

    2. We had a sign language interpreter too! Our best man’s parents are hearing impaired. I have no idea how much it cost because the best man took care of it. Having the interpreter at the ceremony was actually one of the things I was most excited about.

  42. loving this.

    Ok. I’m still pre-wedding, but I’ve got a pretty good handle on what it’ll be. (Did I just curse myself? I’m hyper organized and intent on checking in on my budget weekly)

    Total: 35k. (28k from my parents, 3k from his parents, rest from us)

    Peeps: 175

    Locale: Super duper expensive Central Jersey Shore.

    Break down:
    19k on food and venue.
    4500 on photog
    2000 on church
    1500 on dress
    1200 DJ
    600 on paper
    500 on flowers

    Biggest challenges: Finding a church that would have us Lapsed Catholics and that has heat. And rationalizing per head costs for venue & food when $110 was the cheapest we could find. At the beach. In December. Yeah.

  43. 1. Budget= $5,000

    2. Location= Orlando, Fl

    3. Guests= 60

    4. Breakdown:
    Venue: free (in-laws property)
    Food: $1000 (BBQ)
    Wine & Beer: $400
    Photography: $500 (recent graduates found on craigslist)
    Attire: $400 (Davids bridal)
    Rentals: $500 (the downside of a free venue! ;) )
    Vintage plates and mason jar glasses: $200
    Flowers: $300 (ordered from Publix grocery store and self-assembled)
    Rings: $200 (engagment ring is a family ring, wedding rings from overstock.com)
    Invitations + Save-the-dates: $50 (created on 123prints.com)
    Wedding night hotel room: $100
    Officiant: free (uncle got notary license)
    Cake: fee (sister-in-law made cupcakes

    We came in around 4,000 (not including rehearsal dinner or honeymoon), which I (and my Catholic and Jewish family) were very happy with ;)

    5. The biggest budget challenge for me was one finding catering for under 20 dollars a person, which I thought would be easy. I can go out to eat with my husband for 20 or 30 bucks no problem, but multiply it by 60 (or 100 or 300!) and ppl think you’re crazy. We were able to come have a local BBQ restaurant we love to do on-site catering for around 10/person. The second thing was trying to nicely turn down all the I’m sure well-meaning suggestions from mom, mom-in-law, aunts, grandmas about what I “needed” to buy to make the wedding legit. But somewhere between letting my mother in law hang giant jars of flowers above people’s heads and turning down an ice sculpture of swans for the 3rd time, I found a happy medium (or wedding zen perhaps). :)

  44. $12,000 (honeymoon included)
    Medium size town Pennsylvania
    Church ceremony, reception hall reception
    85 people

    The most expensive items were the honeymoon and the reception food/rental, both totalling around $3500.

    Dress $200
    Flowers $400 (centerpeices and bouquets)
    DJ $1000
    Photographer $1500
    Invitations $100

    My parents don’t have a lot of money and gave us $2,000 to use however we wanted. My mother-in-law has more money to throw around and she paid for the honeymoon, DJ, and photographer, equaling about $6,000. We put in the rest ourselves.

    The biggest challenge was finding a venue that we could afford. Our area is filled with a lot of hotels and ski resorts that hold many, many weddings that cost more than what they are worth. We finally found a beautiful, new reception hall that was family owned. It was a lot more traditional than what I hoped for, but it fit within our budget and everyone there was very nice and accommodating.

    Wedding budgets are the most stressful and awkward things to talk about and to be involved in. It really creates a crash course in dealing with your parents, dealing with his parents, and dealing with your seperate values concerning money. Sometimes I wonder that if we were millionairs, with buckets of cash to burn, if the experience would have been less stressful.

    1. probably not, because then we’d be wondering which ice-sculpture drink-luge to get and how many limos we’ll need. ;)

      1. Actually, my parent’s paid for the wedding, and are pretty wealthy so we didn’t have to stress over the budget much. Partially, this is because we did it in the Midwest, which is a very affordable area. We didn’t have ice sculptures or anything particularly fancy, and I refused to anything that felt wasteful (i.e. refused to spend more that $1000 dollars on a dress because I just couldn’t have lived with myself). However, we had a very nice wedding and it was really great not to have to worry about the money aspect too much because my parents could afford it and they wanted to do it for us. On another note, I’ve been trying to add it up and I think we came in around 20K, but it could have been a few thousand dollars more. I don’t know how much the florists cost, and I have no idea how much my parents tipped. This is not counting rings (we paid for), rehearsal dinner (his parents paid for), brunch the day after (my parents paid for) or honeymoon (his parents gave us money for as a wedding present and we used some wedding gifts to cover the rest).

        1. I guess my main point is that easily being able to afford what you’re doing does make it a lot less stressful, though it’s still upsetting to think about how much you are spending on one day. However, not having major budget restrictions but just doing what you think is reasonable does cut down on the stress tremendously.

  45. Hooray for this topic! Wish it would’ve come up a year ago when I was beating myself up about our ever-expanding budget. We tracked our expenses throughout the process, but we didn’t do a final accounting. The money has been spent, and though it probably ended up in the neighborhood of $15K-$20K (or more than twice what we had hoped for in the beginning), looking back, we can’t really think of anything we wish we had spent less on. We spent money on the things we cared about and vendors we loved, so that made parting with so much of our savings easier. The only huge surprise was how much I ended up spending on my own appearance for the day – I didn’t quite realize how insecure I was until I found myself willing to spend any amount of money in order to feel beautiful for a day. And I did, though in looking at the pictures, I think the happiness I felt that day combined with the overwhelming sea of love I was swimming in did more to enhance my appearance than the false eyelashes.

    But that’s an entirely different discussion. Here are the hard numbers for our 40 person wedding in Boston:

    Ceremony $1,550 (chapel + officiant)
    Reception $4,000 (held at a restaurant, includes site fee + food + booze + gratuity)
    Photography $3,200
    Invitations/StDs/Programs (DIT) $300
    Flowers (2 bouquets, 3 boutonnieres) $400
    Transportation $600
    Dress $1,100
    Accessories (the most beautiful shoes I’ll ever own + veil + jewelry rental) $1,300
    Hair Styling for Me + Make Up for Three $500
    Rehearsal Dinner for 18 $700
    Day After Party $1,000

    My family probably ended up paying for around 30%, his for around 15%, but they very kindly gifted us the money ($8,000) for our 16 day honeymoon. My family also gifted us with an amazing suite at a luxury hotel for two nights ($2,400) , so we were able to have everyone over the following day to celebrate the 4th of July.

    While we’re certainly not thrilled with the balance in our savings account, we enjoyed the hell out of every. single. second. of our weekend celebration. We spent a lot per person, but every person there was vitally important to our lives, so it felt like a privilege to be able to show them a good time. I feel like we got a million dollars worth of memories for a steal.

  46. Even though we had originally budgeted 6k we actually spent 10k on our wedding.

    We held our wedding in our hometown, a small and affordable city where 2 sets of couple friends of ours had previously gotten married on the cheap for 6k so we thought we could do it too no problem.

    We had 68 guests, so fairly small I think.

    We spent roughly 4k on food/reception (we had a cash bar)
    More than 2k on apparel for both of us
    Even though my in-laws paid for our honeymoon we still had flights to cover to get to our hometown and incidental spending on the honeymoon which totaled to more thank 1k
    We spent $800 on gifts because we love to be generous to those we love.
    Misc. costs: $700 (e.g. ceremony fees, salon appointments)
    Music $400 (my brother played for free and we splurged on a karaoke dj)
    Photography $250 (a friend of ours)
    Flowers $200 (we only got bouquets for the bridal party, and they were small, using cheap, in-season blooms)
    Stationary $80 (we sent out e-StDs and e-vites for the most part)
    Decorations $70

    The biggest challenges were how much all the small things we hadn’t counted on adding up. You can never do too much research ahead of time to find out that a license costs $120 rather than $80. It’s silly, but all of our over-spending was due to items like this. Also the fact that even though we had budgeted $0 for decorations, I figured buying some cheap fabric and coloured rocks would not change our budget much, but these sorts of things really added up.

    It grew so gradually that we didn’t realize it was out of hand. And where we still had so many ‘friendors’ and ‘DITs’ it was hard for us to understand how it ballooned. Luckily the glow of happiness that surrounded us on our wedding day has (mostly) allowed us to forgive ourselves for spending so much on it. Although I wish we didn’t feel that we had to forgive ourselves in the first place…

  47. What you spent on your wedding: Probably about $9,000

    Where you live: Well, the city we were married in is about 150,000 people or so; but the city we’re living in now (we just moved) is about 12,000 people when the University is in session, about 8,000 when it’s not.

    How big your wedding was: We invited about 200 people, and about 135 showed up.

    How that budget roughly broke down:
    – Venue: Including the food, we spent $3K of our budget here. Well worth the money.
    – Dress: $800…my parents purchased it for me.
    – Photography: $850, and a total steal…our photographers worked SO hard for us. We were one of their first weddings, and they did such an unbelievable job.
    – Invites: DIY, but they ended up costing about $340. I’m sure we could have gotten a better deal, but we made them together, and honestly, that experience was so much fun that it was well worth the money.
    – Cakes: We paid like $100 for sheet cakes, and my parents made us a tiered cake of rice krispies. It was awesome.

    What your biggest challenge was: Living with my parents to save money for the wedding/honeymoon, and keeping my DIY urges in check. Looking back, I’m not sure if it was less expensive to DIY, but it sure kept me occupied (and therefore sane) while my now-husband and I were living apart for 9 months!

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding: Relatively good. We didn’t use credit cards for any large purchases, but when it got down to 3 weeks before the wedding, and I still didn’t have a dress or shoes to wear to the rehearsal dinner, or pretty girlie undies for the wedding day, I will say that those purchases went right on the plastic. So, not sure how I feel about that. Our honeymoon was rather disappointing as well, so I’m not sure I would have allocated funds towards a trip abroad; we probably would have rather stayed domestic and returned to Florida instead.

  48. We kept ours around $4,000. We got married in a small town, outdoors with about 80 guests and luckily, had wonderful friends to help.

    Venue – $100 (thank God for outoor weddings)
    Officiant – $100
    Photos – $500 (we got a deal through a friend)
    Dress – $200
    Grooms clothes -$60 (no tuxes)
    Food and drink – $400 (catered by a friend with wine, champagne and kegs)
    Cake – $200 (made by a friend)
    decorations, flowers – $200 (we made most ourselves)
    bride’s bouquet – $200
    mother’s flowers – $75
    honeymoon – $2,000
    Hair – $50
    Music – $60 (buying from iTunes for our playlist)

      1. the little things add up. i didn’t count in every cake plate i bought or the few bunches of fresh flowers, etc. i just assume they’re tacked on the end of the rest.

    1. This sounds a lot like what our budget was. I’m really enjoying reading all the comments on this post, and I’m not seeing very many like ours.

  49. I live in an expensive area in a big city. We had a very small wedding (36 invitees with 30 arriving) at a restaurant near to where we lived that we ate at frequently and loved. Because of job & schooling issues we ended up planning our wedding in less than a month which meant we had very little time for shopping around. We got married in December of 2009. This is the breakdown of our budget:

    – $750 for shoes, dress & alterations (jewellery was borrowed from my mom, all gifts to her from my late father)
    – $35 for blow out at the salon (winter wedding with closed toed shoes – no pedi, mani done by mom, makeup done by me)
    – $1200 for suit, tie, shirt & shoes for husband
    – $300 for officiant and use of chapel at city hall
    – $550 for wedding favours
    – $550 for wedding flowers
    – $600 for hotel costs (our quickie honeymoon for 2 nights after our wedding)
    – $60 invitations & postage
    – $125 cake (made by my sister’s best friend & we received a fair discount)
    – $3700 Meal (included hors d’oeuvres, salad, pasta, main dish and desserts) & drinks
    – $1100 for the rings

    Grand total: $8970, for which we paid approx. $3500 out of pocket.

    We received about $1000 from the groom’s parents, my aunt paid fort the flowers, and my mom paid for the dress, wedding favours and half the dinner. The remainder was paid by us. We were grateful for the amount of cash gifts we received, and used this to pay for a belated honeymoon.

    Ultimately I am very happy and fortunate we got a lot of financial help which made a fast wedding easy. We had both been prepared to spend the money out of our own pocket so were pleasantly surprised and instead put our savings toward a downpayment immediately after the wedding. Had we not received such help, I think I would have needed more planning time to cost-cut more effectively, but with a month to plan you do what you can. Because we had the money set aside already, planning wasn’t hard, just time consuming and we were so busy already. I spent the whole month up to the wedding sick like a dog.

    My only regret was not getting a professional photographer, but with a wedding right before Christmas I was being quoted more than the meal cost and could not spend the time to find someone to work with me and not against me. Everyone took pictures but they just aren’t at the level of a pro. I guess next time I just need more creative family & friends ;)

    1. don’t fret.

      we shelled out for an awesome photog and our pictures are gorgeous. but. i’m not really sure what we’re going to do with them… we have two in frames in our house and some on facebook, etc. and. that’s it.

  50. This isn’t scary!
    total: $11,000 piece meal from here and there over 2 year period
    local: Suburban Baltimore
    size: 170 people, saturday eve buffet
    -2k on the venue (over our “initial budget” but worth it b/c it covered the cost of renting out the summer camp where we meet for the weekend)
    -4.5K on food
    -$500 dress & accesories
    -$500 up and coming photographer
    -1.5K on 5 piece motown band (i would have paid double that they rocked so hard!)
    -1k booze
    -$500 flowers & decor
    -The rest on breakfast for 2 day and late night saturday snack

    I made a quiet pledge to keep things at 10K total but never made specific budgets for items. I bought what I felt was appropriate as I needed it. Plus we were blessed with some terrific wedding elves who helped with the hard labor and one design savvy couple who gifted us our invitations. We did A LOT ourselves, but it made me feel more connected to the day and proud of the outcome. We easily could have spent more on better food and a better photographer, but on the flip we could have spent less my cutting the guest list or forfitting the weekend-camp experience. If we hadn’t already had a house, we most likely would have spent half as much and used the money for a down payment.

    I believe that with enough time, research and creativity you REALLY CAN have a dream wedding on any budget! But yea, getting to that zen place is tough!

  51. Total cost $3000

    Guests 130
    City: Nashville, TN

    We have an outdoor wedding (at a public park, which turns out to be much cheaper). Potluck dinner (with a pigroast). Live band.

    Dress $80
    Ring $700
    Chairs $200
    Flowers- home grown
    photography- done by a friend
    Venue- $75

    I’m sort of in a hurry and don’t have time to write out the rest of the breakdown, but just wanted to give a shout-out to the super budget but super fun weddings out there.

    1. Undergrad here. We’re getting married in a small town near Austin, TX – relatively expensive area.

      Our wedding budget is $10k, including welcome/rehearsal dinner – for 150 guests
      Venue: $1,025 includes: private ceremony at church, reception at banquet hall (plus chair rental)
      Food: $1,800 catered buffet style hamburgers, cash bar
      Rehearsal/Welcome Dinner: $1,100 self-catered
      Photography: $1,200 for all day coverage + rehearsal dinner – (no engagement or bridal photos)
      Attire: $550 for my dress & alterations, his tux will be a free rental
      DJ for reception: $450
      Flowers: $500, will arrange them ourselves

      We’re also going on an overseas honeymoon, and will probably spend $5k on that. Add in the rings at about $2k, and we’re totalling $17k for everything related to getting married :)

      1. Hey there. We’re also planning a wedding near the Austin- mind sharing who your photographer is? We have some photojournalist friends who are going to help out, so we’re looking for someone mid-range priced to shoot the basics- portraits, ceremony, etc.

        Our budget isn’t all the way set yet, but we did find a super cheap ($200) county park venue — check with those if you’re looking for outdoor spaces!

  52. My wedding was a hard one to keep track of. We live in a city, but the wedding took place in my hometown, with the reception happening at my parents’ house. I am not sure how much they spent on home improvements like giprocking the dining room ceiling, planting new flowers, renovating the patio, and painting, let alone food and decorations. I’ll just try to break it down as best I can. The costs encompass our wedding and our post-wedding potluck (which is tonight!) in the city for friends who couldn’t make it to our wedding due to the hurricane that hit our area on the day of. We had about 40 guests at the wedding and 14-16 at our potluck. Please keep in mind that these numbers include tax only some of the time, and are all taken from my own, sometimes spotty, memory. I’m guessing there are additional expenses here that I don’t know about, and I may have overestimated others.

    Venue – free, thank you, LDS church!
    Officiant – free, my husband’s father did the honours and paid for his license himself.
    Unity tree – $57.00

    Food – $270, self-catered BBQ both times (my parents spent another $100 or so here, I’d imagine, and some guests brought along food items to share as well)
    Alcohol – $230 (estimate), all booze given as wedding gifts
    Decorations – $50 on streamers, balloons, bubbles, paper lanterns, supplies for pennant banner, props for photobooth (some of these items we are already owned).

    Invitations – $23.00 for two DIY kits from the thrift store, paid for by my parents.
    Thank-yous – $14.00, bought by my parents at the thrift store.
    Guestbook – $10.00, bought by my parents at the thrift store.
    Wedding planner/decorator – $35 (discount), paid for my parents.
    Photography – $950, the most important part of the day for me, and worth every penny. The photographer gave us a “struggling student” discount, because he is awesome.
    Rehearsal dinner – $260, paid for by my in-laws, took place at a wonderful Lebanese restaurant, and he let us take home the leftovers (this food and the wedding leftovers fed us for 2 days, the rest of the wedding weekend)
    Dress – $9.50, the thrift store find of my life.
    Veil – $15.00 for a DIY birdcage kit on etsy
    Shoes – $45.00 for 2 pairs of shoes from Target (ordered online, since I wasn’t sure which pair would fit)
    Mani-pedis for myself and my mom – $100 (my mom paid for this, because they couldn’t take credit)
    Make-up – $45 for application, $22.50 for lipstick in the same colour as I was wearing
    Groom’s suit – $300 for pants, suit, shirt, and tailoring
    Tie – $35, matched my hair flower for the wedding reception
    Shoes – free, already owned.
    Wedding rings – $900, purchased online. We bought Claddagh rings, and it was difficult finding an inexpensive mens’ Claddagh band.
    Flowers – free, wedding gift from my florist godmother
    Music – free, thanks to my iPod and laptop
    Videography – free, thanks to in-laws – they bought, brought and operated a digital video camera themselves.
    Honeymoon – $155, staying in an adorable cottage near the beach for two nights after our wedding (paid for by my parents). We plan on taking a bigger-budget honeymoon for our anniversary.

    Total spent: $3616, $2689.50 of which was spent by us.

    For me, the biggest challenge was feeling guilty about the money my parents spent on the wedding. My father has been unemployed since before I was engaged, and I know that they’re struggling financially. Having the reception at their house was the only way that we could afford to have the wedding at all, since renting a hall and trying to self-cater out there would have been nigh impossible, requiring transporting everything a half-hour away from town, plus all the time lost travelling back and forth. However, Mom really felt the need to spruce up the house and spent hours cleaning, cooking, and preparing (and paying for all of that). I’m glad that at least the improvements made are permanent and that my parents get to enjoy them, especially the gorgeous new stone patio.

    1. Can I just say I am so excited for you about your wedding dress thrift store find of your life. :)

      1. And also add that because my dress was also cheap, it became a barometer for everything else…. “Well, I dunno….that is more than my wedding dress…” Haha.

        1. Awww, thank you! I’m a Canuck too, actually.

          And yeah, everything else I wore for the wedding (that I didn’t already own) cost more than my dress, so that number did sort of bounce around in my head. :)

  53. Our wedding was in Chicago and we had about 240 guests. Our budget was $50k and I was surprised when we came in slightly under budget.

    Roughly half the budget was spent on food — we had a traditional Hindu ceremony, which was very long, so we served a lunch buffet during it in addition to the reception later. Our budget was saved by the fact that most of my husband’s family doesn’t drink.

    We tried to save money on some things. (Buying wholesale flowers and arranging them ourselves: easy! DJing our reception: should have been easy, but the venue’s speakers couldn’t be turned up high enough to get sufficient volume from my laptop.) When we weren’t trying to save money, my expensive taste led us to spend kind of a lot (I had one of the more expensive mehendi artists in Chicago, but boy was she worth it).

    If I had it to do again, I might try to spend less money, but that would probably require inviting fewer people (which would really have upset his parents — they thought 240 was too few) or having the wedding in the banquet room of one of those big Indian restaurants. That would have upset me and my man, because we wanted to get married outside and have a half-Indian, half-not menu to help my white midwestern family feel welcome.

    I’d really like to have half our wedding budget back, because it would have let us have a bigger down payment on the house we just bought, which was a stretch for us (we live in a pretty citified Boston suburb/neighborhood and houses are not cheap).

    But I feel that by spending as much as we did, we were able to make most people mostly happy, which means a lot. A big part of our relationship (sometimes between the two of us but more often between us and our families) is navigating the differences in cultural assumptions and expectations our families have. We have to consider and negotiate a lot of things that might not be questions at all if we came from more similar backgrounds. I’m working on a wedding graduate/intercultural wedding post and it’s going to talk a lot about that stuff, I think.

  54. I’m going to say our wedding clocked in at around $11,000. (At some point I just stopped counting because I didn’t care to know.) This is in the Twin Cities metro area. We got married in St. Paul with 80 people present.

    The big items that I can think of off the top of my head came out as follows: Food, bar, linens, chairs, servers, and all that came is at $5,700. My dress cost $475 with alterations that ended up costing $600 (fun story I’ll have to share sometime!). His suit was roughly $500. Venue was 1,500. Decorations, gifts, accessories, and what not made up the rest.

    Biggest money problem was hoping we could spend $5,000 for the wedding and finding out we couldn’t. Not without compromising other goals. So we sucked it up and went for it. Thankfully my parents helped, though, otherwise I think we would have ended up eloping.

    Post wedding….I’m still mixed on whether that one day was worth over ten grand. The entire experience? Well, thats a different matter! :)

  55. I already commented on our wedding budget, but can I throw out a question about what tools people used to budget? We went through a few planning websites and ended up using a combination of Google Docs and myweddingworkbook.com. Neither was ideal, but we didn’t experience the same gradual growth of wedding expenses that a lot of people seemed to encounter.

    Of course, my mother (and right-hand wedding planner) is an accountant, so we may have started with a natural advantage.

    1. We used Google Docs – spreadsheet for the numbers, another for the invites/RSVPs and plain document for the To Do list. Worked well for us.

      1. I also tacked a column for gift received and one for thank you card sent onto the invitee google doc spreadsheet. It saved me a lot of post-wedding stress.

    2. i’m not really… computer savvy. so we just used excel to compare prices. (one spreadsheet for photogs, one for venues, one for catering, etc) with columns listed for specific items included. (it made it easier to compare apples to apples… THIS place is much more expensive, but it includes all of these things as compared to THIS cheap place which offers nothing)

      then there was a master spreadsheet which had all of the expenses adding up. and which i soon neglected because i just didnt care after a certain point.

    3. Google docs!!

      Put together our own spreadsheet after looking through lots of varied lists of “what you need” (Knot wedding book, local wedding magazines from bridal fair, various websites…) and then picking out from those what we thought we’d ACTUALLY need

      We figured that food/venue would be our biggest expense, SO after we visited a few potential venues and caterers, we sat down with all those brochures and priced out hypothetical weddings — since some places quote straight fees for everything while others break it down into optional chunks, we found it helpful to make some assumptions (number of guests, number of bartenders etc.) and priced out each venue to see how they compared. REALLY helped us decide on venue/caterer before knowing the exact event specifics.

    4. Eh, we didn’t count that closely. I didn’t care to know, by which I mean, totaling up everything was stressing me out and NOT helping my sanity. So we only kind of vaguely counted.

      We always got a price that we thought was reasonable, i.e., the best we could do for what we wanted. Plus, we were spending in cash, so we just wrote checks from what we had when bills came due.

      Do I know about what we spent? Yup. Did I ever care to know in detail? NO WAY. I don’t think tracking really closely would have caused our number to be lower (or higher), since we just did the best we could with ever single item. And now? Money is spent, water under the bridge, moving on.

      I know. I’m not anonymous! But I don’t have to been on this one.

    5. We used Excel, but google docs would probably be even better because it is accessible from wherever you are. :)

    6. I started with an Excel template, then tried myweddingworkbook.com, which just didn’t work for me. Then I found the Google docs wedding template and customized it. That way we could share and both update even though I’m a Mac and he’s a PC.

  56. We spent about $18,000 on our wedding, held just outside Queens on Long Island. We had 80 guests.

    – Reception venue & Food: $4,500, including open bar (We booked the ballroom at an awesome restaurant, so affordable, food was delicious)
    – Photographer: $1,100 (family friend gave us a discount, this does not include prints yet)
    – Band: $2,200
    – Officiant & Church: $300
    – Florist: $560 – this is everything: bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpiece flowers
    – Centerpiece vases: $180 from CB2
    – Dress: $900; designed by me, sewn by my aunt, wholesale 100% natural silk & lace; This also includes airfare for me to fly home for fittings, and for my aunt to come to the wedding.
    – Tux rentals: $600
    – Rings: $850
    – Invitations, thank-yous & postage: $400
    – Hair & Makeup for me and MOH: $200
    – Favors: (simple & cheesy): $120
    – Honeymoon: $1700

    The rest is made up in incidentals, like soothing a last-minute family panic over “what to throw at the bride and groom when they leave the church” – solution: throw money at the problem and make it go away; and a hotel for me to stay in town the night before the wedding.

    Our biggest challenges were: 1) planning during a long-distance engagement in a town where neither of us lived — which leads to picking the first vendor who gives you a good feeling and a good price (we were really lucky in our choices) so you can enjoy your weekend; 2) spending unplanned money at the last minute on extra things, like favors, to pacify family members; and 3) For me, feeling good about the things we spent big bucks on because my fiance paid for a higher percentage than I was able to. I really wanted to contribute equally, but didn’t have the means or the savings to support half of the party we were planning. It took a while for me to go from feeling like we had to cut out a lot of extras so that we didn’t spend all his money, to realizing that he really WANTED to spend money to have this rocking party.

    How do we feel: We paid for the whole celebration ourselves, and we feel really good about everything we spent. While we couldn’t afford to have an all-local, organic reception (we were married in March. Not much is locally fresh in March. :(), we were sure to keep our money in our communities, and supported small businesses as much as possible. Our guests, half of whom traveled across the country, are still telling us how much fun they had at our wedding, which makes the expenses I worried about, like the food and the band, absolutely worth it in the end. We weren’t able to spend as much hands-on time crafting details because of our short engagement (7 months), and distance constraints, which in the end probably saved us a lot of money in favors, decorations, etc. and perhaps a little bit of sanity. Whenever I look at the pics from our day, I don’t even think of how much anything cost. I’m at peace with what we spent, so I can really revel in the memories of the day.

    1. We also planned our wedding (though my ex was a wedding dropout and so there was no wedding) from a distance, which, yes, made things difficult. We were getting married in a foreign country, too, (Canada), where my ex is from, and that make figuring out prices just one step more confusing.

      Our budget was about $10,000 which was how much I was able to scrimp and save all by myself for the two years between getting engaged and when the wedding was supposed to be. And I don’t make very much money AT ALL, but being gay and not having the support of parents, I was determined to give my beloved the wedding of her dreams. I don’t have the actual cost breakdown anymore, but I do remember how I pinched pennies and put aside every cent that I got for a gift, every bonus, every $5 in a birthday card for two years.

      And I didn’t get a dime back from anything because no refund on a deposit seems fine when you’re sure you’re actually going through with the wedding.

      Since we were planning the wedding in her hometown, my ex had very specific ideas of where we should eat, who should be our photographer (the two biggest parts of our budget), etc etc etc.

      We both got dresses that cost around $100.
      We got a lot of bespoke items on Etsy, which, obviously, we couldn’t return.
      There was only a $100 donation to use the church.
      The reception venue was $800.
      The catering from the place she had to have was $4000.
      We spent $1000 on letterpress invitations (I used to work at a letterpress studio, so I really wanted these.)
      The wedding rings were $1100.

      The other $2,800 was made up of all the rest of it, I guess, that I don’t remember off the top of my head.

  57. I’m naming myself because, as a wedding grad (Rachel + Zach), you can go look at our wedding and get an idea of what these numbers translate into. I will try not to brag/reverse brag! hope this is ok.

    We spent approximately $12,500. Give or take a few hundred bucks because we weren’t perfect at tracking everything. We live in a high-average-wedding-price metro area (DC), but had the wedding in a further out ‘burb (Fairfax, VA) to save money on the venue (also it was tough finding a venue in DC that was big enough And would allow us to buy our own alcohol and choose our own caterer). Guest count worked out to be right around 80 people.

    Roughly, the breakdown:
    Venue: $2100 (roughly, we had to put down a deposit and then not only did we get the entire thing back, they gave us a partial refund for getting out early?? which floored me. this included tables, chairs and some linens (now they charge extra for linens I believe))
    Catering (cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres plus buffet dinner then coffee service; includes equipment rentals): $5,325 plus tips
    Alcohol (Total Wine): $700-ish (btw we had a ton left over, even after sending the extra to the hotel for after-parties, we probably could have spent $550 or $600 and been fine)
    Photog: $650. Our guy was just starting out so his prices were ridiculous, they’ve probably gone up a bit by now. I would call his work good but not artsy.
    DJ: $775 (for ceremony and reception)
    Flowers: $850. $350-ish for the bouquets/bouts etc (my mom works at a floral shop so we got the flowers at wholesale plus free labor, so this is not typical). $500 for centerpieces and ceremony arrangements from our farmers market vendor.
    Zach tux plus alterations: $300-ish
    Rachel dress plus alterations: $600-ish
    Officiant: $250
    Invites: $185-ish (we ordered way too many, could have been cheaper)
    Favors: $85-ish (small button tins and stickers; my sister made the candy buttons)
    Day-of Coordinator: $250
    Hair: $220 ish including tip
    Bridesmaid gifts/etc.: $250
    Groomsmen gifts: $100
    Plus maybe a couple hundred for accessories and other random things. This does not include our honeymoon or rehearsal dinner, because those were gifts from Zach’s parents.

    In the first six months, the challenge was justifying these expenses for Zach. This was a huge expense for both of us, but whereas I was more immersed in wedding-land and felt like we were doing a great job budget-wise, the amount of money seemed astronomical to him. It took a little time for him to get used to the fact that the vision in his head for our wedding had a certain price tag. We could spend less for sure, but it would be a different wedding. He liked what we were doing for the wedding, and he trusted that I was doing the best I could to keep costs down, and once we got over that hurdle, it got a lot easier. As I mentioned in my grad post, he started grad school during our engagement so that’s a big reason why the money question got stressful for a bit.

    Overall I feel fantastic about our budget, in terms of the actual number and how well we stuck to it. Not gonna lie, sometimes I regret not putting more money into photography. For the price we paid I feel great about our photos, but they are not art. Not crying myself to sleep over here, but if I had a regret, that would be it.

    If anyone wants vendor names, I listed most of them in the comments over at my grad post.

    1. oh and my vendors are also listed in “DC Area Vendors” and “Etsy Vendors” on the APW facebook page. :)

    2. i had the same issue with josh. we both had the same misconceptions about wedding cash before beginning. and then i started to do a lot of digging, and he had trouble figuring out why all of our original numbers were EXPLODING. you really don’t know what a wedding can cost til you try to have one.

      1. so true. it’s funny, we also started out with a budget ideal of $6K – our reasoning was, that was the amount we thought we could save between the time we got engaged and our wedding date. Then his parents pitched in about the same amount so we expanded our vision a bit. But those first few discussions, when we were thinking of what we could do with $6K, prior to heavy research… total fantasy-land ideas. I know that we could have had a wedding for $6K, it just would have been very different (and a lot smaller). so yeah, since I was doing all the research, my comfort zone was expanding, and I wasn’t doing a good job of bringing him along. once I showed him my spreadsheets and cost comparisons and he found out what the average is in our area, we both felt a lot better about moving forward. first lesson in communication! :)

  58. We spent about $35,000 all told. And that number is HARD for me to type. When we started planning, I told myself we would spend 15K and had all kinds of judgey thoughts about people who spent more (namely, our friends, who all had 70K weddings in Long Island). Boy, was I naive. Here’s how it broke down:

    We live in NYC. Our wedding was upstate a bit, but still in a very expensive area relative to the rest of the country.

    We had 106 guests including 2 children.

    Rough numbers:
    Venue-an amazing barn and stone house that we had for the whole weekend: $3800
    Food-cocktail hour apps plus three courses served family style. Cake and pies included.: $14000
    Alcohol: beer and wine plus a signature cocktail: $2000
    Full disclosure on the booze-my uncle is a wine distributor. it should have cost twice what we paid. We’re lucky.
    Flowers/Decor: about $2500. This is a hard number to know the real deal on, because I spent months collecting milk glass vases and I really don’t know what they cost.
    Band: $2500 for an old-timey jazz band. Worth every penny.
    Ceremony music: free! We have musical friends and they are awesome.
    Invitations: $1100. My husband and I are graphic designers who have a budding invitation business. Our invites were seriously OTT and I wouldn’t have that any other way. We saw this as a business expense.
    Dress/shoes/etc: $4000. It was vintage Dior, I died when I saw it. I wanted to spend a lot less, but I thought, what the hell? I also had a custom made cocktail hat to go with. No regrets on any of this.
    Husband’s attire: $700. That was a suit from JCrew and a custom-made fedora. He’s never looked hotter. Again, no regrets.
    Photographer: $3000. She traveled from Michigan to do it and I will love her forever.
    The rest of the budget went to lodging, tips, a sound system for the ceremony, babysitter for the kid guests, etc etc etc.

    Here’s the thing. That’s a LOT of money. It was hard for me to spend like that. Our biggest challenge was balancing my thriftyness with husband’s cultural baggage of “gotta spend, gotta spend”. He’s Persian AND from Long Island. That’s a rough combination when it comes to wedding budgets. It’s not unheard of for persian weddings to go on for a week and cost as much as a small house. I am also of middle-eastern descent and had some of the same tapes running in my head, but truly, there is nothing like a persian wedding. In the end we spent what made the most sense to US. And I have not one single regret about any of it. We are blessed to have successful careers and generous families, so we don’t have any post-wedding debt. And we had the time of our lives. I wouldn’t have any of it any other way.

    And I will NEVER judge another bride’s budget again as long as I live.

    1. Would you mind sharing the name of your venue? I’m searching high and low for a house in the NY metro area for a whole weekend, and that sounds like a steal for the area (provided, of course, your wedding wasn’t 10 years ago…) – thanks!

      [And thanks for sharing your numbers. Yours is such a classic example of the relativity of budget. Yes, $35k is a lot of money, but it’s also a total “budget” wedding by all the LI Persian standards I’m familiar with.]

      1. Surely! It’s called Shadow Lawn, in High Falls, NY. It’s actually a private home and so you don’t really get the house to stay in. But, you do get access to the entire property for the whole weekend (thurs-sunday) and the house during the wedding day. The owners are the most amazing people ever and I want to be BFFs with them. Our wedding was just over a month ago so the numbers should still be good.

      1. Thank you so much for saying that. I am being really glib about it in my post but for real, that dress was a struggle. I felt like such a jerk spending so much. But I couldn’t help myself, it was like it was made for me. I had to do it!

        1. i can understand that. i probably would’ve puked about 8 times over spending that kind of money on a dress.

          but, girl. you only live once. and if you’re in some slammin dior- you’re REALLY living.

    2. “And I will NEVER judge another bride’s budget again as long as I live.”

      That’s gotta be some kind of APW motto!

      1. That AND I will never judge another couple’s choices for their wedding in the same way…now that I know how much it costs to do x, y, z, I so much better understand why people don’t want to spend money on it (regardless of whether I did or didn’t decide to, because I just kind of get more that some things seem really important to one person and not another, or are doable for some but not others).

    3. Dear Anonymous Laura:
      Thank you so much for posting how much your dress cost. I was having a private little freak out because mine is around $3600 with alterations, and of course I bought a hair flower, a veil, shoes, and fancy earrings made by an artist I’ve loved forever, which brings up the total for my attire to…well, I won’t think too hard about it. But oh pants, I spent a lot more on a dress than all the other anonymous posters out here. Well, my mom spent it.


  59. ■Grand total: right around $5050.

    ■Location: My parents live on a lake outside of a medium city in northern MN; we were married in the chapel next door and had the reception in their yard.

    ■Wedding size: We had food and seating for 135, about 120 actually showed up. This was 40-50 more people than we expected to make the trekk up north. Gotta love a gorgeous summer day on a lake up north!

    ■Attire for bride, groom, groom’s 3 sons: $550
    Save the dates, invitations, programs supplies and mailing: $200
    Tables, chairs, pa system, port-a-pottie and tent rental for reception: $750
    Food for rehearsal dinner (DIYed by the groom-sloppy joes!) and reception: $1350*
    Cake: $390**
    Flowers: $300
    Donation to chapel: $100
    Thank you gifts for officiant and other special helpers (including hotel for officiant): $400
    Reception decorations (including tableclothes and the favors we forgot to put out–oops!): $350
    Pedicures for 5 special ladies and bride (doubled as the thank you gift): $250
    Photographer: $400

    *$850 of it was paid by my parents.
    **My college roommate lost the bet of who’d get married first and so she paid $300.

    ■Biggest challenge: It was nerve-racking to watch the guest list climb so high. At one point, I had to tell my mom know exactly how much each random person she was inviting was going to cost. It was also a little sad when we got to the end of our money and had to pull out the plastic to cover some things. Totally worth it though.

    ■How I feel now: Two months later, I’m still walking on sunshine! I don’t think my feet touched the ground all day, it was pure joy. I’m still thrilled with how beautiful, perfect and US everything was that day, including the budget. We’re not fancy or overly crafty but we did spend money on things to buy peace of mind. We didn’t want the hassle of worrying about things like food and flowers. Also, our low-budget, inexperienced photographer is a gem and was a very worthy expense. He took some really beautiful pictures that perfectly capture how the day felt. In the end, we were carful with our budget but didn’t deny ourselves and came to a good balance.

    1. Just had to chime in– my wedding was at a cabin a bit north of Duluth in early August. A beautiful day on a beautiful lake, like you say :) And now I’ve moved to Cincinnati and your reference to ‘up north’ really brought me home today. Thanks for that!

  60. * We spent about $2,000 on our wedding, not including our rings or our honeymoon. To be fair, most of our guests paid for their own rooms at the dude ranch we reserved. They weren’t expected to, they just did. Otherwise, it would have been a bit pricier than this.
    *We live in a fairly small western town, and hunted for a good deal on a dude ranch to take over for the weekend. Small town or no, those can be pricey!
    *We had just under 50 people. Including us. And our pastor.
    *Food and flowers were the big expenses for us.
    -$950 on food (including cheesecake for dessert)
    -$600 on flowers (My middle name is anemone, and I was really determined to have them, because when else would I have as good a reason to buy 200 of them?)
    -$180 on my dress, which I bought on ebay (the only thing I have ever purchased on ebay).
    -$100 fee for using the dining room of the dude ranch for an “activity”, although I’m not sure that’s the word I’d use to describe a marriage ceremony and dinner!
    -The rest was little things, like our unity candle set up, our guest book, a sweater to wear over my dress, renting tablecloths and other nonsense that I hadn’t thought about ahead of time.
    *The biggest challenge for us was finding our venue. Once we found a place that we liked with nice people that was not going to cost us an arm and a leg and our first born (they don’t usually “do” weddings, or I’m sure the price would have gone way up), everything else fell into place. We were perfectly happy to have other people make some decisions for us, like side dishes and what vegetables to offer.
    *Afterwards, I feel like our budget was just about right. Everything went as well as it could have. I don’t feel like I was missing anything by not spending money on the things we didn’t spend money on. We did not have a professional photographer, for example. One of the downsides of a rural area is that there are few options, and that would have DOUBLED the entire budget. And it wasn’t worth it for us. I think the flowers were a little crazy, but I loved them. The whole wedding budget thing is kind of hard, but I think the important thing is to put money into the things you really want, and not into things you’re supposed to want, whether it’s the Knot’s expectations or your grandma’s.

  61. THANK YOU for this post. I found APW about a month before getting engaged this spring, and it has been a constant source of affirmation. Today is no different. The budget has been the deepest source of my wedding anxiety – we’re both savers by nature and only one of us was employed for most of the summer, so ACK!. This number felt huge to me – except for a car and my loan-financed brain, I’ve never spent so much, and I was feeling aggravated that no matter how much I try to DIY/DIT I just can’t get the number down to the place that would feel comfortable. Then I read this blog about how what matters is who comes and how you feel about the day, and I relax. And, I see other peoples’ numbers in this city and I feel less like I’m hemmorhaging cash. Thanks APW folks in DC!

    The wedding isn’t until the winter, but being totally type A about budgets, the only thing we haven’t firmed up yet is the bar cost (we’re doing a beer/wine open bar) and the number of guests because invitations haven’t gone out yet.

    But, here’s what the budget is, from my engagement ring through the honeymoon:
    TOTAL: About $23,250
    Stationery (save the dates, invites, thank you notes, programs, postage, ink, all DIT) – $500
    Attire (dry cleaning, tie for him, sewing supplies, shoes ) $200*
    Ceremony (venue, license, music, officiant, decorations, misc. tips) $950
    Entertainment (new music for ipod, rented sound equipment for reception, gift certificate for day-of helper) $750
    Flowers (bouquets, corsages, bouts, for the altar, etc) – $40*
    Gifts/Favors (for wedding party and generous parents, plus favors and gift bags for hotel) $900
    Jewelry (engagement ring and both wedding bands) $1150
    Honeymoon (to be planned) $1200
    Photographer – $1,440 (does not include album, I may DIT one later)
    Rehearsal dinner – $2,700
    Reception (food, drink, decorations, tax, tips) – $13,400 [this still makes me nauseous]

    Guests: We’ve invited about 180, expect a maximum of 160 to come (so reception costs for a smaller crowd would be less. Some money from my parents (see below) the rest from me/us, though his parents generously offered to cover the rehearsal dinner.

    *Full disclosure (which will blow anonymity if anyone who knows me reads this, but who cares?): I was briefly but incorrectly engaged about 6 years ago. At the time, my parents generously gave me $10k towards the wedding. Before I had any smart idea of what things cost, I used it to buy a sewing machine (best idea ever) and many yards of white dress fabric. Then the engagement ended and I put the rest of the money in mutual funds. Then the market tanked, then I got engaged again (and am still kicking myself for a bad investment). SO – this time around I’m making the dress (always the plan) with the fabric from the first time around. We both firmly believe this is not bad luck, but we’ve talked about it. And, I’m making all the silk flowers out of the leftover scraps, which is what gives me almost zero flower costs in the middle of winter.

    1. So happy to see your food cost! It makes me feel less ill to know that my [estimated] number is in the same ballpark as yours… I factor in aprox 20% for taxes and tip, is that about right?

  62. Man, you’re going to have an onslaught, aren’t you? Here are mine:

    Budgeted $5,000; spent about that much (about $100 over)
    I live in a big city, though not in the top 10 in the US.
    Wedding was about 130 guests. Our venue was actually a (pretty big) backyard so we didn’t pay the cost of the venue.

    Budget breakdown:
    Biggest costs were photography ($1,000 – we got a photographer who was just starting out in the business, so we got an amazing deal) and catering ($1,000 – buffet-style, catered by a restaurant just breaking into the catering business so we got another amazing deal). Next biggest costs were table and chair rental ($500, for the most basic tables and chairs), portable toilets ($400ish, venue had a septic tank, which didn’t work for the amount of people we had), cupcakes ($325 – used a girl just starting out in the cupcake biz so we got yet another amazing deal), and alcohol ($400 – got the wine at-cost from wine distributor friends, and they chipped in a keg for free (we paid for the other)).

    We didn’t sweat a lot of the details: dress was a prom dress off the internet, $120. Rings were from etsy, titanium/silver, less than $100 together. Mother-in-law is a graphic designer so she did the invitations for us.

    I feel pretty good about the budget. We paid for it all ourselves and it was a stressful experience trying to get it all together, but I discovered that enough research will find you great deals. Going with folks who were just starting out in the business, but had credentials (ie, was a photojournalism student before becoming a wedding photographer, was an established restaurant that just didn’t have a big catering division yet, a girl who loved to bake and was just getting her bakery business off the ground) saved us a ton and did their jobs beautifully. We didn’t go into debt, we had a beautiful wedding, we had our family and friends there, and I think all in all it was a very positive experience.

  63. Our wedding is in a month, but it looks like we will end up spending around $50k. We are super lucky because my dad and his girlfriend paid for all of the big ticket items and we paid for the rest, like all of the little crafty things we wanted to do and our (really long) honeymoon. We live in Boston and we’re getting married in the Florida Keys so stuff is really pricey in both locations.

    Venue: $6000
    Food & 7 hour open bar: $10,000
    DJ: $1100
    Photographers: $5000
    Rings: $1000
    Dress & Alterations: $3000
    Suit & Alterations: $200
    Welcome Party: $6000
    Brunch: $3500
    Flowers: $1200
    Ceremony Musician: $600
    Officiate: $800
    Paper goods (a good deal of which we made ourselves): $900
    Random Decor & Favors: $1040
    2 weeks in Florida Keys and a 7 day cruise: $7000

    The biggest challenge was realizing that after we had spent money on making everything we wanted to make, we also had to spend money to ship it all down to Florida which cost a fortune! I also have a huge problem feeling guilty about everything and it took me about 8 months to feel more at ease spending so much money (and my dad’s money). But my fiance and I really wanted to do it and my dad insisted on it time and time again. Now, only a month away, I am just astounded by the love and support I feel.

  64. Love this thread! So wish I had this when I was planning. Our wedding was 11 months ago, outside the DC area (very expensive), for 111 people (including a dozen kids). Total spent was approximately 24k, not including any rings.

    Rough breakdown:

    Dress – $500 for dress, $150 for alterations
    Tux – $400
    DJ – $1,000
    Photographer – $2,750 (this included engagement shoot, full day coverage, ownership of all images, some prints and retouching)
    Officiant – $150
    Housing – $1000 (we paid for a few family members for whom money is a challenge)
    Flowers – approx. $800 – I ordered from a wholesaler and did bouquets and centerpieces w/ girlfriends. I had hundreds of roses, mums, iris, orchids, etc… for a fraction of the price of a florist. This was probably my favorite single line item and some of my best memories and pictures.
    Invites etc… – $300, including all postage and thank you notes, table cards, etc…
    Gifts for wedding party – $350
    Welcome bag goodies – $500 (including all munchies, personalized M&Ms, CDs we made)

    The rest (somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-16k) went to food and beverage. We did a rehearsal dinner, had a full cocktail hour and seated dinner w/ open bar (top shelf and extended hour) the night of the wedding. We built breakfast into the cost of the hotel rooms so we had both breakfasts during the weekend of the wedding with our guests.

    Overall the process of planning and paying for the wedding was huge. We paid for everything ourselves (though we did get gifts of approx. 5k from family after the fact) and had every penny paid before the day of the wedding. This was significant money for us and really taught us a lot about how we make decisions, prioritize, communicate, etc… as a team. I didn’t know it would end up teaching us so much about ourselves as a couple but it really did and was absolutely invaluable in terms of life and relationship lessons. (Not to mention dealing w/ moments like “you have to say no to your mother!”!!!) We’re 38 and 43, and both very responsible (occasionally a bit tight) with money so we were lucky to have the resources to pay for it all ourselves without going into debt, and we each took the amounts involved very seriously. The total we spent seems really large, and occasionally silly to me, but we actually don’t regret a penny of what we spent. I do still think of the location we didn’t choose that had the option of our own fireworks show for just $5,000 – which somehow came to sound reasonable to me in the thick of wedding planning, but I figure there’s always an anniversary party in our future! :-)

    I was so astonished by the power of having all of our loved ones together, and the overwhelming happiness they felt for us, that I can’t put a price on that. There have been all the usual tough life moments in the almost year since, illnesses, family feuds, etc… that make me cherish the 48 hrs of pure sunshine we had last Fall and feel all the money and stress and planning was well spent. I think we could have spent more or less and still had the same take home feelings, but what we did was within reason for our budget and resources, honored what we wanted to provide for the people we care about, and gave us a lifetime of cherished memories. Worth it all and I can’t wait to plan my next big party now that the hubby and I know we can do this well.

    Thanks for the topic Meg!

  65. Look at all these comments already! I don’t know if you need another, but here it is if it’s helpful:

    I spent $16,000 on my wedding, not including the honeymoon or engagement ring.

    I live in Boston, and the wedding was right downtown, steps from the North End, Faneuil Hall, and the Financial District. In other words, this wedding was dirt cheap for the location.

    We had 105 adults and 16 kids.

    The main items in the budget were:
    $10K- reception (including apps, dinner, an ice cream sundae bar, and a beer/wine open bar.)
    $2K- Photography
    $800- welcome reception the night before
    $500- DJ
    $450- school buses
    $600- hotel room
    $150- invites and save the date postcards
    $600- Jeff’s suit
    $600- Jeff’s ring
    $250- my dress

    My biggest challenge was getting over the fact that we were not going to be able to have a $10K wedding in our location with everything we wanted. But $10K for the reception is seriously dirt cheap for downtown Boston, and all our guests stayed at the hotel that was a 10 minute walk away, and everything was in the most tourist-friendly part of the city. Nobody rented a car, and people loved coming to Boston (80% of our guests were flying in). So, mostly I feel great about it, until I think about how many around-the-world plane tickets $16,000 could buy. Then I want to vomit a little. But then I think again about how that many members of my huge extended family might never be able to be in one place at the same time again, and I think about my grandmother walking through the streets of Boston where she used to work as a teenager (she actually used to hang out with her friends on the roof of our hotel decades before it became a Hilton), and I think about my cousin’s kids dancing their little hearts out, and the money kind of fades into the background and feels just right for the incredible experience we got.

  66. I think our wedding probably cost around $25,000 and we had 87 guests. We limited the guest list because we wanted to have a small wedding, but also because we wanted to be able to afford the sort of wedding we wanted to throw, and we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we were feeding 200 people and plying them with alcohol. Also I should add that my husband and I are older-ish (33 and 35, respectively) and we are both professionals, so this was a number that we could afford.

    We were married in New Hampshire, which made it less expensive than it would have been if we got hitched in NYC, which is where we live. But we also had city expectations on both sides (his family is from NYC, mine is from Boston) so there were things that were included in the weekend that I wouldn’t have necessarily put in my budget, like elaborate welcome baskets, a shuttle bus for guests who didn’t want to drive to the venue and a morning-after breakfast. But my husband’s parents paid for all that, so we didn’t have to. And frankly, if they didn’t pay for it it wouldn’t have happened because those extras were not my priority.

    In terms of who put up what cash, my mom contributed $5K to our fund and my husband and I put up $15K. So Iour original budget was really $20,000, but the wedding probably cost closer to $25K with all the “extras” his parents kicked in. But I have to stress, all of the money we spent was money that we had saved and dedicated to the wedding – nothing went on a credit card (except if we were going to immediately pay it off for miles or something) so this was a wedding that was within out budget.

    Rough breakdown:

    $12,000 for venue rentals, sit-down dinner and open bar for 89 people.
    $3,000 for stuff his parents wanted- welcome baskets, huppah construction and decoration, shuttle bus, post wedding breakfast.
    $3,000 for photography, which included a “photo-booth”
    $2,000 for music – DJ for coctail hour and reception and a guy playing classical guitar before and during the ceremony
    $2,000 for my dress – I would have gone cheaper, but my mother LOVED my dress and loved the fabric, etc. I actually got it at an outlet in Boston, so even that was much less expensvie than it would have been regularly.
    $2,500 for flowers (I got them online and did them myself) invitations (made them myself) decorations (picked a venue that didn’t need a lot of enhancement) and incidentals.
    $500 for burgers and beer for rehersal night bonfire and BBQ for guests. We also continued to eat and drink from that stash the rest of the weekend – before the wedding, etc.

    It’s a lot of money – more money than I have ever spent on anything. But honestly, I’m not in debt from it and I don’t regret a cent. So it worked for us.

  67. Background: We live in the Midwest, in a moderate priced area, but the wedding was in Northern Washington and we had about 30 guests.

    Price and Breakdown: So I don’t know exactly how much was spent as my parents paid for it and my mother did most of the planning. However, I believe it was in the $25,000 range which is a h*ll of a lot of money (to me) and more than I probably would have spent. By far the bulk of that money was for our venue (which my mother had her heart set on and was willing to pay for). Overall I think we got a good deal however as we had our venue for three days and three nights and the cost included all of the food for all of our guests and their lodging during that time. All our guests had to do was get there (which was enough because everyone had to travel, some a very long ways, to get there). That made me happy because I was really worried about our wedding being a financial burden for our guests to attend. The other really large expense was our photographer for $2000 (Don’t be afraid to ask what someone can do for you. His normal base price is $3000, which was more than we wanted to spend. He asked what our budget was and then made it work for us.) My dress was one of the things I was responsible for and I got it for $99. As a frugal person, I just wouldn’t have been comfortable in a dress that cost thousands of dollars.

    My biggest challenge was making my peace (and helping my husband make his peace) with how much money was being spent, even though it was my parents spending it rather than us. What really helped me was calculating how much would have been spent on our wedding if we had planned it the way we had originally discussed, counting not just what we (or our parents) would have spent, but what our guests would have spent as well and then compare it to the total cost as executed. The total amount of money spent was actually very similar, the costs were just transferred from our guests to my parents. Since my parents can afford it and, my mother at least, wanted to do it, I was OK with that.

    One thing to be aware of when you are choosing the location for your wedding is where your vendors are going to come from. We incurred additional costs on almost all of our outside vendors because our wedding was about 2 hours from anywhere so everyone had 2-4 hours travel time and most of them charge for that.

    Post-wedding I feel pretty good about our budget. No one spent more than they could afford (including my parents, ourselves and our guests). Even though we spent a lot of money I think we got good value for our money which makes me happy. Most importantly, we had a beautiful wedding that both we and our guests enjoyed. It was in a beautiful location that people really enjoyed the opportunity to visit. We had three days to spend with our guests which was wonderful and made for a very relaxed time and took the pressure off any one event to be perfect. Also really important to me was that it was much easier and more relaxed for my husband and I. By having a venue that included practically everything, it made the logistics really simple. I had been in a near panic at the prospect of trying to organize logistics for a state park type wedding where we would have to organize everything. Moreover, since the wedding was in my parents area instead of ours I got to let my mother plan anything we didn’t care about and only had to do planning for things I was interested in, which was amazing.

    Despite all that, and even with my parents paying for the wedding, I still spent entirely too much money on wedding stuff over the last year. You really need to allow a generous amount of money in your budget for all the little things because they really add up.

  68. Oooh fun, I’ve been wanting to do this forever!

    What you spent on your wedding:
    Honestly, I’m not 100% sure – I had seen a bride on APW who said she didn’t adhere to a strict budget, but just never spent more than she was comfortable with on any one thing. That was brilliance to me. I think we ended up spending about $20k, though.

    Where you live:
    We had our wedding in a small town that is a suburb of a big city. So, we spent big city amounts on some things (photographer), but small town amounts on others (venue).

    How big your wedding was:
    About 130 people

    How that budget roughly broke down:
    Dress: $250 (yay, running of the brides!)… but with shoes, veil, etc, my attire came in at about $500
    Flowers: $1000
    Music (ceremony and reception): $1200
    Venue (Church and Hall): $1100
    Invites: $500
    Wedding Planner (which included food, rentals, set up and day of coordination, and reception decorations): $9,000
    Photography: $3,000
    Cake: $600
    Alcohol: $1200
    Bus to and from the wedding/hotel for guests: $400
    Miscellaneous (gratuity, church decorations, DIY projects, etc): The rest

    What your biggest challenge was:
    In the beginning, when I was first putting everything together, I had a really hard time realizing what I was getting for the money I was spending. Especially with the catering – every estimate seemed HUGE. Then, one day I realized that even if I was taking 130 people to McDonalds, it would STILL cost about $1000. Suddenly, $4,000 for really good food and service didn’t seem like too much.
    Later, it was sort of stressful to see all the little things add up… for example, I had 7 bridesmaids (I come from a huge family), and their bouquets got expensive fast.
    Finally, it was hard to pay for things that I knew I could do just as well for myself if I had enough time (like flowers!). I really had to force myself to give up control, but I’m glad I did so that could actually ENJOY the wedding instead of overextending myself on projects.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding:
    Pretty good – I feel like I didn’t let saving money prevent me from doing things I really wanted to do, but didn’t spent too much on things that weren’t important to me. We threw an awesome, long party for a lot of people.
    We also really lucked out in that I was unemployed when we started wedding planning, and made the budget assuming I’d be unemployed for a while, but then I got a job about 6 months before the wedding. So, we ended up with a lot of money we hadn’t really counted on having, which took A LOT of the pressure off.

    1. Oh, and just to be 100% clear… I don’t think that doing your own flowers means overextending yourself, I just mean that – knowing myself and all the other projects I had going on – it would have been for ME.

  69. Oh I LOVE exercises like this! Every time you do something like this it strips the whole “we don’t talk about money” thing away, little by little.

    My wedding is next year. My dad runs a successful real estate company, and when my sister got married she spent about $30,000 on a beautiful wedding. She set the standard for my other sister and me, so this is how much money we each have to spend.

    Our wedding will cost about $10,000 USD. Our honeymoon will cost about $5,000 (we live in the States are going to the Balkans and Turkey!)

    We will have about 70 guests at a retreat center. We are also paying for rooms and meals for two days and nights for about 40 of these 70 people.

    Venue (for rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, and space for 40 people to sleep): $2,900 (OK- this was supposed to result in less bragging, but I am pretty proud of my shopping skillz there!)

    Food (Friday, Saturday and Sunday, meals, drinks, dessert): $2507

    Vendors (photographer and flowers): $3100

    Accouterments (rings, dress, suit, invites, chuppah, ketubah, other misc.): $1200

    Comes to $9,707, which is rounded up to $10,00 for good measure.

    Plane tickets will be $1,300 to 1,400 a piece (I am not proud of my shopping skillz there but can’t find anything for less!!), we won’t stay anywhere fancy… $5,000 is a rough estimate but I think it will be close to that.

    This leaves $20,000 to pin the foundation on the house and get a new roof! Now that’s what I like spending money on!!!

  70. We are 6 months out, but here are the plans so far:

    Budgeted: $12,000 for everything but the honeymoon. We are right on target, maybe a touch under, which we would use to upgrade rings or photography.

    We live just outside Boston, MA — expensive!! Our venue is 15 miles from Boston proper, so still in the ring of expensive stuff.

    We are inviting 112, 11 of which are kids under 5.

    All reception and venue costs: $8,000
    Invitations/stationary/postage: $150
    Photography: $1,800
    Wedding rings: $750
    Dress/attire: $750 (FI has a suit to wear, and I am planning on a DB sale dress. If that works out I’ll use the extra cash for hair and maybe makeup)
    Officiant/Marriage license: $275
    Decorations: $300

    Our biggest challenge was finding a way to feed the group on our budget. We ended up doing a Sunday brunch in the off-season and didn’t have to cut back food or drink at all. An evening dinner reception in Boston, or even further out, is nearly impossible at this budget if you’d like to provide any alcohol.

    1. Do you mind me asking what your venue is? That sounds incredibly reasonable, and I have a friend who has just started looking for one!

  71. Well, I’m in a position of having been married once, and am in the process of planning to get married again in two months (!!).

    First wedding was in rural Iowa, outside of Cedar Rapids, about 120 people, I think. We ended up spending (and we paid for everything ourselves, bad idea in retrospect because it offended some people…long story) about $5000. This just about broke our bank, but here’s how it broke down:

    By far the most on food: I can’t remember exactly, but we got everything locally, organic when possible, fresh veg. and we roasted a whole lamb! We mostly cooked it ourselves, with the help of a friend we hired for a couple of days.

    The next biggest expense was probably renting stuff: chairs, a tent, dishes. We had the wedding in a park, so we had to bring everything in, though there was a kitchen/lodge to use. Rentals and park fees were about $800.

    We also hired a small band to play bluegrass/country music. They were about $700. I wish we hadn’t now because no one danced.

    My dress was ultra cheap: about $30 because it was a kind of hippie dress. Yes, this was an outdoor hippie wedding. His suit was expensive, but he planned to wear it again, so not sure whether to count that. It was about $350.

    We bought flowers from a local gardener and planned to make the bouquets ourselves, but completely ran out of time. Family members did it, I didn’t even know they were, but someone pressed the (beautiful) bouquet into my hands right before the ceremony! Flowers were probably $200.

    We didn’t really decorate anything, since it was outside.

    We bought a few cases of wine (no alcohol allowed in the park, only wine or beer, and beer would have offended my mom more than wine…major teetotaler). That was about $500.

    The rest (about $2500) was on food.

    We just decided what mattered most and spent accordingly. My experiences with that event have definitely shaped what I’m doing for my second time around.

    1. Oh yeah, and rings. They were about $300 total, since we got sterling silver. We just couldn’t afford anything more!!

      How I feel post wedding: Well, obviously I regret marrying someone that wasn’t right for me, ignoring the little warning signs.

      But as to the wedding expenses themselves, I think that for my own sanity I should have not tried to do everything by hand. We had help, but we ended up staying up super late the night before, we slept in a tent at the site (!), got up at 5 am to set up chairs and the tent, and get the lodge/kitchen ready. With one hour to go, we borrowed my mom’s hotel room to shower and change. And then we had to take everything down and return all the rental stuff. Everything was so rushed, busy, and hectic that I honestly don’t remember much about that whole day. Here are my memories: I was hungry and tired, I had blisters on my feet, I was emotionally drained from all the well-wishing, and I was pissed that my family left after an hour.

      This time I’ll be making every effort to make it as relaxing as possible.

      1. We only spent around $400 on rings- we got 10k white gold, but we looked at a lot of sterling silver beforehand. Also, instead of diamonds in our engagement rings (yep, we’re two girls!) one of us got white topaz and the other got white sapphires. I LOVE our rings. :)

        Anyway, I just wanted to respond to your comment about not being able to afford more than $300. :)

  72. Let me just preface this by saying that I would have preferred if we had eloped — a nice trip to a B&B in the Rocky mountains and a justice of the peace would have made me oh so happy. But, my husband wanted at least his immediate family there. So, we ended up with a tiny backyard wedding and followed it up with a casual wedding party with friends a week later. It was all very informal which made it relatively inexpensive.

    * What you spent on your wedding: $3,000

    * Where you live: Small, affordable city

    * How big your wedding was: 18 guests at wedding and a reception a week later for 100.

    * How that budget roughly broke down: $500 on reception venue, $500 on dinner for wedding guests, $1,000 for food and drink at reception (did our own food and brought in our own booze). $1,000 on simple dress, student photographer, suit for groom, minor decorations, officiant fee, wedding license, and materials to make homemade cake.

    * What your biggest challenge was: Thinking that cooking and serving my own food for wedding reception was cheaper when really I probably spent more than if I had found an affordable caterer that already had a lot of the equipment.

    * How you feel about your budget post-wedding: We stayed on budget. Although looking back I maybe would have opened the purse strings a bit more and hired more vendors to ease the stress on us and our family. We thought that by saying “we are keeping it simple” to everyone we met, meant that we could pull off doing our own food, drink, flowers, cake, etc. But really — that stuff takes time, even if it is simple. For example, I should have either sucked it up and ordered a cake or eliminated the cake altogether.

  73. I am totally fascinated and relieved and comforted and surprised at the number of women who either didn’t keep a strict budget, or add up the total cost, or whose budgets grew during planning. I’m so glad APW is delving into this area, because I had unknowingly bought into the wedding-industry noise about making and sticking to a budget, and choosing which areas you care about and focusing money there to the exclusion of others, etc. etc., and in the process, had sort of assumed everyone out there was working within a strict budget. But — hello — of course we aren’t all keeping perfect budgets during the entire planning process! Luckily, I’ve avoided feeling too guilty over our expanding “budget”, but this is certainly helpful reinforcement.

    The morning after we got engaged, my parents announced that they’d be providing us with a $10,000 budget. I was surprised, and very touched, and they’ve been fantastic about not imposing strings on the money – literally giving me checks to deposit in my own bank account and use as I see fit.

    My fiance (we’re three weeks away from our wedding) and I aimed to keep our costs close to that gift of $10,000, but knew that we’d be willing to put in our own money in order to achieve the wedding we wanted. Our budget mantra during our 14 month engagement was to decide what was important to us, then work to find the best value to achieve that goal, then spend the money and not regret it, even if it put us over the budget.

    It was very important to us to have a large number of our family and friends present – our number of guests attending is hovering right around 180. It was also very important to me to have a sit-down dinner. We love good food, and I love hosting dinner parties. We also wanted a band and a full open bar. So, with those priorities, we set about finding the best value, and I’m very pleased with our decisions, despite the fact that we’re looking at spending a total of nearly $17,000.

    My fiances parents offered early on to pay for the rehearsal dinner, and late in our planning process, when they learned about our budget, provided us with a $5,000 check to cover most of the difference between my parent’s gift and our wedding expenses. It was also unexpected, and we’re beyond grateful.

    So – our wedding of 180 guests is taking place in a small midwestern city (population 50,000), with relatively low-cost vendors. We’re spending $5,745 on the food (a sit down dinner would have been more, but we got a great deal because our wedding is on a Sunday, and because we booked the rehearsal dinner with them at a higher per-person rate.); $2,000 on the bar, $350 on the cake; $2,000 on the band, $1,250 on photography, $1,000 on the reception venue, $600 on the ceremony venue; $1,000 on attire and accessories; $800 on stationary and postage; and $700 on rings.

    1. Girlfriend! *I* didn’t adhere to a strict budget or track everything. That would have made me crazy. Also, we went over a little. You know how? Well stuff came up like finding that one David’s oldest friends was going to sleep in his car the whole time he was here, because he couldn’t afford a hotel room. Over my dead body! So, we spent $600 or something to get him a hotel room with everyone else for 4 days or so. So our overspend was all stuff like that. Stuff where I said, “There are some things that are way more important than our f*cking wedding budget.”

      Oh, and I never ever would count our Honeymoon in our wedding budget. We did a big international trip, because we wanted an excuse to do a big international trip (which clearly we repeated this summer ;) I totally get that for some people the Honeymoon is a wedding expense, but it didn’t feel like that for us, so we didn’t count it. (You’re totally allowed to do that too, by the way.)

      1. I didn’t count our rings as a wedding expense… wedding expenses seemed like things that we spent to make the one day happen, while the rings seemed just so much more permanent.

        1. I’m counting both, because it’s “money that all needs to be spent at the same time.” It’s more about budgeting by the dates, I guess, and not the event itself.

        2. Ditto, I won’t be counting rings or the honeymoon in my expenses. The rings are marriage expenses, not wedding expenses in my opinion. And my significant other and I would probably take a big trip in the next couple years anyways so we might as well do it after our wedding and call it a honeymoon.

      2. hm, it was the reverse for us! we put “honeymoon” and “rings” at the top because if we didn’t take that money out of the wedding pot, it wouldn’t happen.

  74. As much as I would love to comment on this topic, I am in the planning stages of preparing my budget, so I will refrain. But what I do want to do is give a huge shout out to Meg for posting on this today and for all of you brides for commenting on it! It means a lot to those of us who are planning and budgeting!

  75. We don’t know how much we spent. We set a budget of $5000 for ourselves, which I think we went over by about $2K, but my parents insisted on upping the “quality” of our wedding and as long as they were paying, I put aside my political beliefs on wedding spending and said, “Dad, put steak tips on the menu if you must.” All told, I think it ended up being about $20,000. Here’s the breakdown(ish):

    What you spent on your wedding.- $20,000 (?)

    Where you live – We live in CT, but got married in Old Orchard Beach, ME.

    How big your wedding was – 200 strong

    How that budget roughly broke down –
    *Food & Venue Costs – $10K – 12K
    *Photographers – $2K
    *Dress – $500 (plus 2 x $100 failures)
    *Grooms Outfit – $100
    *Band – $500
    *Open bar for wedding party – $1000
    *Decorations – $1000 ($500 from us for indoor, $500 from my mom for her arch “vision”)
    *Invitations – $700 (stupid. stupid. stupid. Gocco.)
    *Rings – $300ish
    *Flip Flops & Pashminas for guests – $200
    *Gifts for bridesmaids & Groomsmen – $200
    *Flowers – $300
    *Extras – $1000

    What your biggest challenge was – We come from big families and cutting the guest list just wasn’t an option. For a while we tried to rationalize why one family member was more important than another, but at the end of the day we decided that being inclusive meant more to us than money. It ended up lifting a huge burden from our shoulders. But it was extremely helpful that our parents shared this viewpoint and were willing to help.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding – I’m glad we set a budget for ourselves and left our family open to help where they wanted to. We ended up having a more expensive wedding than we wanted, but we didn’t feel like we were taking advantage of anyone because in the end, it was their decision to spend more, not ours. And being the photo freak that I am, I am soooo glad we did not spend $5k on our photographer like we had originally planned. They were amazing, and seriously undercharge for their services. That being said, my Gocco was such a waste of money and time and energy and now sits in my closet begging to have crafts made with it. Damn. Blogs. <3

  76. We are three weeks out (10/9/10), so maybe take what I say with a grain of salt, since who knows what might happen between now and then. BUT (knocking on wood profusely right now), I think we know where we’re going to land, and I think we’re going to come in right on target.

    We got INCREDIBLY lucky; I am marrying into an amazing family. We started out planning to pay for everything ourselves – my family certainly didn’t have any money to help, which was totally fine – we were okay with having a very small wedding. But my fiance is the first of all his brothers and sisters and cousins to get married, so his family really wanted to throw a huge party. They came forward and offered to help, so we kind of built our budget around what they decided to give us, plus what we had saved up.

    Our wedding is definitely not what we originally envisioned – especially cost wise. And even though this is anonymous, I’m feeling a little embarrassed about the numbers I’m about to throw out. But I live in New York City, so please understand this is probably pretty average for a big wedding in Manhattan. Maybe below average, even.

    So far, we have spent: $30,274.24
    I *think* our grand total is going to be: $51,300-ish
    Our original budget – when we were paying ourselves: $15,000
    Our revamped budget: $52,000 (mostly gifts from my fiance’s dad, two of his aunts, and his uncle)

    So… we will (HOPEFULLY) be right on target and not over. The reality of the situation is that we are throwing a party for 200 people in New York City, and we aren’t really even doing anything over the top, but there’s just not a really cheap way to do that. We are having the ceremony and reception in the same location: six hour event total, five hour open bar, sit down dinner. Okay, so here’s the breakdown:

    Venue/Food/Cake/Alcohol/Ceremony (our venue does all of this) for roughly 200 people: $35,276.88

    Photographers: $5700 (BIG splurge because I’m a photographer, and I knew that was the most important thing to me on that day. Our photogs are the crazy talented Our Labor of Love, and they are worth every penny to me.)

    DJ: $1000 (he is a friend I’ve known for years, and he actually gave us a $2000 discount, which is amazing)

    Invitations/Menus/Programs: $250ish (I designed and printed myself)

    Wedding bands: $4518.31

    Wedding dress and alterations: $2238 (A gift from my mom)

    Hair and makeup: $275 (Paying full price for hair, but make up was majorly discounted because one of my best friends is a MUA)

    Favors: $200 (we’re doing lottery tickets)

    That doesn’t include our flowers. One of my fiance’s aunts has a good friend who is a florist, and she asked if she could take care of all that for us, so she is. I told her what colors I like, that I only want to have locally grown/in season flowers, but other than that she can do what she wants, because I don’t actually care that much. I trust that it will look great, but frankly, I don’t think I’m going to be paying attention to the flowers that day. :-)

    I would say our biggest challenge was finding a venue we loved that also did the catering. We found lots of great venues, but then you had to bring in a caterer and a baker… and that was actually way more expensive than having a place that does all of it. We finally found a place, plus they could do the ceremony, and the space is gorgeous, so we’re happy.

    I’m not post-wedding, but I feel weird about our budget. I’m so glad we had so much help; that was amazing and unexpected. My fiance’s family thinks we’re having this really affordable wedding – but they’re from NYC and used to things costing this much. My family – I’m originally from the South – thinks we’re totally out of our minds. I stopped discussing money with my mom and dad and close friends because… they just think $50,000 for a party is the craziest thing ever. And to my small town sensibilities… I totally agree! It is crazy. But that’s New York City for you.

    So we’ll see what happens… if we actually come in under or close. We are really keeping an eye on our spending the next three weeks.

    1. Yeah, I couldn’t talk about my city budget with any friends or family who got married in our hometown (where the one reception venue is the American Legion and Legion women provide a buffet for less than $10/person).

      I really see how you can’t compare budgets across regions and cities now. This makes so much sense.

      1. Definitely can’t compare regionally. Even getting married outside of city limits of Chicago makes a huge difference. Too bad we wanted to be in the city to make getting around easier. And of course we want some other standard things our huge families expect, so we couldn’t really go a super-nontraditional route. We’re definitely not having a typical traditional ballroom wedding, but still wanted some formalities to make people happy (like a sit-down dinner) that added up. Also, it sucks that getting a non-ballroom venue costs so much more!

        I second the NOT discussing budget with friends who were not married here besides one who is another APW follower and we can discuss things much more matter of fact.
        I was drunk and talking to a friend who got married in our home town and was whining about paying for one more couple we added to the invite list even though I don’t want to.
        She was like “What does it really add?”
        I of course blurted out “At LEAST another 200 dollars!!!”
        She was flooooored since hers was around $15 per person. It made it very awkward. The hard thing is everyone here is floored by the “bargain” I got on catering at only 100/person!

        When you have giant families like my fiancé and I do, we’re inviting 250 people. It’s hard to swallow a potential $25,000 just for food and alcohol (and of course all the catering staffing which really, really adds up), all before 11% tax and 20% gratuity! Then to have people tell you that’s SUCH a great deal… A wedding planner friend referred to us as “budget challenged” for a wedding our size with a budget of a “only” 40k. Ouch. (though I have to thank her because of her connections we’ll be able to pull it off a lot nicer wedding for that price because there are a lot of favors being called in)

        40k for nothing crazy – a venue, some clothes to wear, dinner and drinks for a lot of people and a dj so we can dance the night away. No favors, no ice sculptures, no limos… we’re looking at catering being about 75% of our costs though. I guess that’s the price to pay when food is the most important thing to us.

        For the record, a friend did a bbq buffet for her reception (on paper plates, plastic cups) and all said and done came to about $50/person. So double that for a really nice, 3 course dinner on china and with glassware was well worth it to me. Personally. Despite the sticker shock of catering in a major city.

  77. We got married in Brooklyn with 98 guests for a Saturday night dinner at a restaurant.

    We originally wanted to spend no more than $20,000. All tallied we spent $29,000.

    Reception (food, drinks, space rental, tax, tip all included): $16,700
    Flowers and misc. decor: $850
    Music (iTunes and string trio): $850
    Photography (from a friend): $600
    Ceremony (donation to church): $500
    Stationary (invites, STDs, thank-yous, programs, ketubah): $1,900
    Rings: $850
    Transportation (bus from ceremony to reception and zipcars): $1,000
    Rehearsal Dinner (food, drinks for 38 guests): $1,700
    Gifts (bridal party, parents): $650
    Her Attire (dress, shoes, makeup, hair, jewelry): $2,300
    His Attire (suit, tie, shoes): $1,000

    Looking over our spreadsheet in retrospect, there’s nothing I would change – maybe the dress. I spent double what I wanted to on the dress, but that’s still not a huge percentage of the total. I would really love to have spent a lot less, but I don’t think there’s any way we could have had a dinner for 100 people in Brooklyn on a Saturday night for any less.

    That said, a year later we’re still not back to where I want our savings account to be and I HATE that. But that’s more about our married spending habits. Somehow before we got married and combined our finances we were able to save a lot more. We’re still trying to work out how to manage our finances together. We’ve tried several arrangements and its just complicated. Part of the problem is that we have very different incomes and were used to spending money in very different ways. We’re very open about money and its usually not a huge emotional issue – its just a logistical problem. I didn’t expect this because we discussed and made plans and arrangements beforehand but when the plan didn’t exactly fit we were sort of stumped. I totally expected to have our savings account back to the pre-wedding figure by our first anniversary. We’re not even half way there. That’s been the biggest surprise of married life so far.

  78. * We never had a budget to begin with… my parents just said to spend what you need… talk about slightly overwhelming. Never totaled, but I’m guessing it was around $8,000. My parents paid for most, we paid for some things (when we just didn’t feel like asking for another reimbursement from the ‘rents).
    * Lived in a medium town in the central South, wedding was out in the country aways.
    * No idea how many guests actually showed–we invited 400, but I think just over 200 came.
    * FOOD: Potluck dinner + calling in family favors for close to 100 lbs. of meat, but we did pay for 2 breakfasts and lunch for about 50 people who were there all weekend… probably spent about $450 at Sam’s. ALCOHOL: $600. We got WAY too much beer and wine, but that meant we got to take a case of two-buck chuck to our new home with us ;) Apparently people were too focused on food at dinner. VENUE: $1400 for Fri.-Sat. lodging (private rooms + cabin + free camping), chapel for free, $1000 for reception (all of this was at the same place) DRESS: I bought two… one was $83, the other was $13. PHOTOGRAPHER: our only vendor, $2600. FLOWERS: Free! From groom’s mother’s garden, arranged by my ex-florist sister. BAND: They love playing at our venue, so they just asked that we make a donation to the venue (it’s a non-profit) rather than paying them. We did $400.
    * Convincing mothers that a potluck would actually work. The set-up also took a long time (all Fri. afternoon and Sat. until mid-afternoon–dinner started at 5pm, wedding at 6:30).
    * Post-wedding, it is what it is. The big issues pre-wedding weren’t issues anymore. I think we could have done it for less, but I feel very blessed to have had parents that (while emotionally taxing at times) were willing to just trust me and spend what I asked (though asking for money got SO old…).

    1. Forgot to say…

      Save the Dates/Invites/RSVP: $270–$200 for printing the postcards we created by scanning a vintage postcard, and $70 for invite supplies. Plus more for stamps.

      Rings: $30 (for resizing a silver band he made in high school as an apprentice), and ~$2,000 (mine is a family heirloom, and my parents deducted the its value from their cash wedding gift to us).

      Groom’s Attire: ~$200 for a linen shirt and khakis from Old Navy, plus a fancy-schmancy bowtie.

  79. ugh. . . i just spent about 20 minutes typing up my comment and then somehow deleted it. grr. so this will be the quick version:

    * Total budget – about $35,000 (aside from wedding attire, split 50/50 by my parents and his parents, which his parents insisted on. which was a good thing, since my parents weren’t spending that much on their own!) This does not include rings or our honeymoon, which we paid for. And does not include the rabbi fee, which was a donation, and i don’t know how much our parents ended up giving.
    * Location – mid size city in CT right outside of New York City
    * Wedding size – 140 (ha, far cry from the 20 person intimate dinner party wedding i’d always envisioned! but in the end, perfect)
    * Budget breakdown
    – Food (the biggie!) – $12,000 kosher catering is expensive, a good kosher caterer even more so, and doing it buffet even more so (our caterer actually tried to convince us to do sit down because it costs less, but this was worth it, and i’m glad we stuck to our guns).
    – Alcohol – $5,000
    – Band – $5,000 (1 keyboardist for ceremony, 8 piece band for reception)
    – Venue – $3,000 (hotel for both ceremony and reception)
    – Photographer – $2600 (does not include our album, which is $1200 for the record)
    – Flowers – $2000 (this included 14 centerpieces, my bouquet, 3 bridesmaids bouquets, 4 corsages, 10 bouteniers, which i still can’t spell, and our chuppah)
    – Invitations and ketubah – $700
    – Cake – $750
    – My dress, shoes, accessories, alterations – about $800
    – DIY decor – $100 (table numbers, placecards, welcome bags)
    – DIY save the dates – $100

    Biggest challenge – reconciling my/my family’s perspective with his/his family’s. in short, we’re a whole foods family, they are a walmart family. but when it came to wedding planning, we wanted small – small size, small budget, immediate family and a few friends. His sees weddings as a time to celebrate with everyone you’ve ever known, and whatever it costs, it costs.

    How I feel now – We’re almost 4 months postwedding, and what’s done is done. Did things cost a lot? Yes. Are we extremely fortunate that our parents could do this for us? Yes. Was it all necessary? Probably not, but I’m over it. We decided to spend our money on what was most important – food, drink, band. Everything else we did our best to keep simple and cheap. Was it the most practical wedding? Nope. But a practical marriage? Yup, that’s our plan and so far we’re doing a pretty good job. (Full disclosure – we moved from the northeast to the midwest right after the wedding. that sure helps!)

    1. the wine! i forgot the wine. . . since we had to get kosher wine, the alcohol budget above was only for the hotel’s beer and liquor. My parents bought wine from a wholesale place, and spent about $500 and we had a ton left over (which we kept). and we passed on kosher champagne, since it is very expensive and would only be used for toasts. and we figured our guests could toast with whatever they happened to have in their hand at the time!

    2. Dear E,

      Because you were doing kosher catering, did you end up making choices about dairy vs. meat to keep costs more within a realistic range? just curious because that’s an issue for our wedding…


  80. We spent about $26,000 in Long Island NY.
    We had about 130 people at the wedding.
    -Venue was the bulk of the cost, at about $13,000. That was where the ceremony was held, as well as a gigantic cocktail hour, 3 course meal, open bar and cake. They also handled all the logistics and centerpieces. Worth every penny.
    -Photography was the next biggest cost, at about $5,000-that includes about a million prints, 3 albums, and 2 photographers for day of. Hub’s parents paid for this.
    -DJ and Video came to about 2400.
    -We rented a trolley to move wedding party and guests and us around-most of our guests ended up in the same hotel, and it was POURING, so that was probably the best expenditure of the day, at around 1000. Hub’s parents paid for this as well.
    -I spent 1,000 on hair and makeup for myself, the wedding party, and our mothers.
    -Officiant was $500
    -My dress cost $200 (woohoo mother of the bride dress from David’s), but my total wedding outfit cost came to about $600 (I splurged on shoes, and a handmade esty sweater, and Spanx.) My parents paid for my outfit costs.
    -I think we spent about 1,000 in tips.

    We DIY’ed invites, save the dates, and non-flower bouquets/boutonniere/corsages. We saved money on the save the dates and invites for sure. We probably could have done flowers for what I spent on the bouquets, but I didn’t want flowers, so it was worth it for me to spend the time and money on the alternate.

    We then spent about $5,000 on a honeymoon to Hawaii. I don’t really consider that a wedding cost, but it was so necessary and wonderful.

    The biggest money issue we had was how our families deal with it so very differently.
    My parents told us right after we were engaged that they’d give us a gift of $10,000 to use as we wanted. Hubs was completely taken back by this. Once we got into the planning stage, Hub’s parents would say-oh, we like this, we’ll pay for it. That threw me for a loop. We also had different views about how much to spend on the whole shebang, Hubs (and his parents) being in the ‘it costs what it costs’ camp and me being in the “omg we’re spending this on one day” camp. We spent more than what I was probably comfortable with, but not more than we could truly afford. Our parents help was really the deciding factor, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did.
    We were also both living with our parents, about an hour away from each other for the first couple months of our engagement. I was a new driver, and some times work on the weekends, so we saw each other every other week at the most. That was stressful, because when we did see each other, we became so focused on all the wedding planning things, and didn’t necessarily get to enjoy being with each other. Moving in together 6 months before the wedding made life less stressful, so the money aspect seemed less important. That process was aided by Hub’s parents, who liked the apartment we looked and and gave us a wedding gift of 6 months of rent. (again, threw me for a loop, but I’ve come to realize that’s just how they work)

    Looking back on it now, 6 months later, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Yes, it was a huge amount of money (for us). But we had a great time, our friends and family are all still talking about what a great time they had, and many of the things we spent money on saved us twofold in stress. I would not have had the time, patience, or skills to do my makeup the way the make up artist did, and I danced all night to our DJ in my super comfortable $200 shoes. Our venue-supplied wedding coordinator made sure I always had a drink in my hand, and that our grandmothers had seats and everyone ate. We spent the money on what mattered to us, and that made the wedding a real celebration of our new marriage.

  81. I’m getting married in one week so most of our budget is pretty much nailed down at this point (barring any disasters). I don’t think I saw any other Canadian budgets listed but maybe people just didn’t specify. We actually didn’t really budget at all. I would guess that the average for weddings around these parts is $20-25,000 so we were aiming for the something like that.

    Where do we live? In a city in Canada that has a pop of around 600,000 and is, I believe, a relatively inexpensive city.

    How many guests? We’re looking at about 150

    Budget Breakdown:

    Dress – $2000 (including alterations)
    Church/Priest – Free, it’s at my church and there is no cost for parishoners
    Choir – Free, although I will likely make donations to both the church and the choir, I just don’t know what they will be yet. My dad is the organist and I sing in the choir so they were happy to be there and celebrate with the mister and I.
    Trumpeter – $150
    Organist – $300 (since my dad can’t play!)
    Invites – I would guess around $150 (including postage). We made them ourselves and did online RSVP so they were really inexpensive.
    Centrepieces – $90 (DIY – candle holders bought on kijiji, fake flowers)
    Reception Venue (this includes food, booze, waiters, bartenders): approx. $12000 (3 course meal, open bar)
    Cake and Cupcakes – $300 (3 tiered rice krispie cake cake and 7 dozen cupcakes)
    Photographer – $1500
    Rings: Wedding bands are about $1600 (extra expense because my engagement ring didn’t have a band so we got something custom made so that it would sit flush with my other ring) and my engagement ring was around $4500
    DJ – $500
    Hair & Makeup – $50 (we’re doing our own makeup, hair is being done by one bridesmaid’s sister)
    Accessories – $150 (neckalce, hair comb, bracelet…etsy!)
    Wedding Party Gifts – $800 ($100/each)
    Groom’s Tux – $225 rental
    Groomsmen Tuxes – approx $500 (we are supplementing part of the cost of the rental)
    Flowers – $450 (bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages)
    Pre-marital class – $150
    Marriage License – $100
    Donation in lieu of favours – $300

    Payment Breakdown: My parents gave us 5k and paid for my dress. The rest is on us.

    Biggest Challenge? Probably just determining where we were willing to spend and where we weren’t and being forced to let some things go.

    How I feel about it? Well, we aren’t there yet, so I don’t know.

    1. Thank you for tackling this difficult subject. I think this will be an amazing help to those planning, no matter what their budget is.

      I am putting my response here with the other Canadian responses. We had our wedding in the second largest city in our province. Our original budget concept was to do it as cheap as possible, while aiming for an rustic, elegant vibe. (I think the vibe ended up being more funky/artsy/semi-elegant though. It was very us though, and we loved it.) I was dreaming of a two or three thousand dollar budget, but then as estimates came in, I realized that was impossible for us.

      Here is our breakdown:
      What we spent: Just under 5000
      Where we live: second largest city in our province in Canada (about 500,000 people)
      Size: About 100 people came (we invited more, but about half our invitees were out of country and could not come)
      Food (DIY dessert reception): about 800
      DIY Invites (about 180 invites), supplies (incl. paper cutter, punches, tape, lots of leftover paper supplies, etc), and postage: 406
      Thank yous (bought from Target): 35 (postage not included)
      Programs: 25 for copies at Staples
      Champagne toast: around 250 I think
      Alcohol: Cash bar. We provided some red and white wine (maybe $200 worth?) towards the supply of their cash bar run by the venue. The venue supplied beer, etc. The profits went back to the venue.
      Dress: 60 (from a thrift store)
      Dress dry cleaning: 82
      Bride’s shoes, undergarments, button replacements, new straps for dress: 61
      Veil: 130
      Bride’s jewelry: 75
      Groom’s purchased suit, tie, shirt, and converse: 375
      Welcome dinner (simple, grocery store order food for 25-30 people): 225
      Rented dishes, glasses, some serving ware for welcome dinner and wedding reception: 425
      Reception decor and stuff for OOT bags: 170 (I also added misc things I already owned as decor, and 3 cake/cupcake stands my mom bought)
      Flowers and photography: 715
      Various gifts: about 200
      Honeymoon hotel (2 nights): 441
      Lingerie for honeymoon: 175 :)
      Venue: Free (This should have been about 800, but the person running the venue is a friend and after the wedding, he decided not to charge us at all. Amazing gift.)
      Live band, sound equipment, lights, video, projection screens, etc: Free. (Donated by friends in the industry who also performed as our live band. Another amazing gift.)

      Biggest challenge: Finding a venue we could afford. We were first thinking of getting married in a major U.S. metropolitan city, but could not find anything we could afford. Everything was super expensive. So that was one of the reasons we changed locations. Plus, we knew at the city we chose, we had musician friends who had equipment we could borrow. And we knew they might want to be our band. (And they did!) We were so thankful for this, and they actually loved performing together too since it had been a while since they all played together.

      Budget: I feel so very deeply thankful about it all. I know that this was *ONLY* possible because of the generosity of so many people and because we have friends who happen to be musicians. This type of wedding would have been completely forever out of our reach otherwise. This whole process of planning a wedding was humbling (and shocking and disappointing and many other things), because it is just so difficult and so expensive. And it was deeply moving to have been so supported by our community. I think for my husband and I, learning how to navigate this gave us a lot of life experience and skills. And an abundance of thankfulness for our community.

      1. Oops, forgot a few things.
        Wedding bands: $150 (custom simple silver bands).
        Guest book: gufted by my mom. DIY, less than $20 of supplies
        Favors: cookies, $30

  82. Location: Canada, small seaside vacation town

    Size: 150 people

    Total spent: $12220

    345 Venue
    240 Cake
    3820 Food & Rentals
    1500 Drinks
    750 Suit, shoes, etc
    575 Dress, etc
    140 Bridal party clothing
    325 Officiant
    150 Flowers
    400 Decorations
    175 Music/Band Rentals
    900 Photography
    400 Videography, Polaroid, Super 8
    700 Invitations
    800 Rings
    1000 Honeymoon

    Biggest challenge: Making decisions and planning while living 1200km away from where we were married. Not having access to the type of vendors and resources that are available in the city. Yet still shopping around (kinda obsessively). Though we eventually threw money at a few problems to make them disappear. Thank god.

    Post wedding, I feel relieved that we didn’t spend much more and feel good about the decisions we made. It took a lot of work to keep our budget low, but it’s one of the things that I’m most proud of.

    1. “Making decisions and planning while living 1200km away from where we were married. Not having access to the type of vendors and resources that are available in the city. Yet still shopping around (kinda obsessively). Though we eventually threw money at a few problems to make them disappear. Thank god.”

      Agreed! I refused to hire a wedding planner because we were trying to keep costs low…but the shopping around and throwing money at something to go away – well that happened with our caterer 2 weeks before the wedding. Can you say budget bust?! But it ended up being the right thing to do, I just didn’t commit earlier because I was scared of spending that much money, but it was the decision I should have made months earlier.

  83. 1. We originally budgeted about $20 K for our weddings, which for the most part we stuck to. What we neglected to include (or rather didn’t have the foresight to include) were all of the little things (license, extra events, rings, flights, supplies, car rental, hotel, honeymoon, extra event expenses) which added to the final total, which was around $27 K.

    2. We live Boston but got married in a city in the Midwest where I’m originally from. From what I hear, everything around here is about double the price from what I paid for back home.

    3. We had two weddings. Yep. One was on Friday, which honored my husband’s religious and cultural heritage and the other wedding was a Western-style reception, which was held the following day on Saturday. So in that sense it was a pretty big deal but the total guest count was 125 for Friday and about 90 for Saturday.

    4. Here’s the breakdown:
    – Venues for both weddings: $3000 for reception, $1350 for the temple hall
    – Photography for both weddings (our largest expense but oh so worth it): $4000
    – Food for the reception: $2200
    – Food for the cultural event: ~$500 for supplies – my MIL made it all herself!
    – Service for reception: $1450
    – Liquor/bartenders/rentals/security/too many other misc. fees for the reception: $4500
    – DJ: $650
    – Cupcakes/cake: $550
    – Engagement & wedding rings: $2000
    – Travel & mini-moon expenses: $1500
    – Attire for us, family & wedding party for both weddings: $1500 (my mom paid for my wedding dress & alterations)
    – Hair: $300 (coloring, cut, trials, updo)
    – Makeup: DIY

    5. Biggest planning challenge: Unlike most weddings where you get an all-inclusive package with the reception for food, service, etc., the venue only provided me with table and chairs and rental of their spaces. Everything else I had to arrange myself: linens & tableware rentals, food, service, etc. It was a challenge but it meant I got to customize my event rather than go with a pre-packaged, cookie-cutter version. I chose one of the best restaurants in town to do drop-off catering then hired a separate company for service. In the end, I think it worked out great but it certainly isn’t something I’d like to do again!

    6. Biggest family/money drama: My mom kept adding people to the guest list. For most weddings this is pretty common since the parents are also paying for a part of the wedding but in our case, we were footing the bill. She offered to pay for all of the extra guests she was adding (but of course she never did). Initially it created a lot of added stress on my end but I then just let it go and now all’s well.

    7. Overall, I feel pretty good about the budget. Our reception venue was a big of an indulgence, seeing as how we didn’t get much for the original fee, but I’m still glad we went with it.

    Tips for the brides out there:
    – First things first: be realistic with yourself about what you can and cannot afford. You do not want to exhaust all of your savings or run up credit card debt just for this event!!
    – Add in extra room to your budget (maybe 10-20%). There may be extra expenses that you didn’t see coming and if not, then you can use that money for something else post-wedding!
    – Don’t pay for things just because they’re “tradition.” You don’t HAVE to have a wedding cake, guestbook, favors, ring bearer pillows, cake toppers, crystal champagne glasses, monogrammed cake knives, aisle runners, or whatever. Choose what fits in with your vision and your personalities.
    – Give yourself permission to feel what you feel about spending money – stressed, excited, anxious, guilty, happy – but do not let it get in the way of what’s really at the heart of the matter: beginning a life with the one you love.

    1. “- Don’t pay for things just because they’re “tradition.” You don’t HAVE to have a wedding cake, guestbook, favors, ring bearer pillows, cake toppers, crystal champagne glasses, monogrammed cake knives, aisle runners, or whatever. Choose what fits in with your vision and your personalities.”

      GREAT advice! So much of that stuff is just pointless. I mean, if you did it…right on, but we are skipping most all of that stuff – and no one will notice.

  84. Wedding in New York City for 109 guests: $10,000.

    (NOTE: If you factor in the gifts our parents’ gave –my dress, tent rental, cupcakes– plus all honeymoon expenses, the grand total would be $13,000.)

    The nitty gritty…

    VENUE: $2050 …..(At a farm museum)
    CATERING: $3236…..(BBQ company, we provided drinks, alcohol & dessert)
    MUSIC: $140…..(iPod & speaker rental)
    PHOTOS/ VIDEO: $850…..(hired friends, bought our own fancy camcorder)
    DECORATIONS: $284…..(stuff from grocery and Party City)
    ATTIRE/ BEAUTY: $2,142…(Head to toe for both of us + prof. hair & makeup)
    MISC.: $1,095…(invitations, church, hotel, marriage lic., bridal party gifts, etc.)


    Guilty feelings about paying a few hundred for professional hair and makeup. Guilty feelings about my mom spending $1300 on my dress. (We talked it out later and fortunately worked through it.)

    I wouldn’t change a thing. Our main goal was to have zero debt from both the wedding and honeymoon, and we accomplished this! Sounds totally icky, but our budget was based on what we guessed we’d be able to pay off using gift money. (Our estimate was based on the “gift trends” of the NYC wedding subculture, plus my parents’ $5k contribution.)

    *BUT if we were in a better financial situation at the time, I wouldn’t have minded going over the budget and having a tiny bit of debt to pay off (a few hundred bucks, tops) in order to hire a professional DJ and day-of coordinator, both of which would have made a HUGE difference in my experience of the day. (I would have hired friends to do this.)

  85. Hopeful budget: $11,000
    Location: We live in Baltimore but are traveling to Lancaster, PA for our wedding.
    * will be 100-110
    * so far…$2,500 on venue, $4,000 on food, serving ware & rentals, $200 on alcohol (family works for a distributing company), $1,000 on photography (family friend is a wedding photog).
    * Hardest thing: Venue and guest list thus far
    * I hope to feel that we spent the largest amounts of money on the details that were the most important to us :)

  86. We’re getting married in 2 weeks and all of our expenses have been paid for so I feel ok commenting (before reading other comments). We don’t have flowers, favors, matching bridesmaids, transportation (ceremony and reception are in the same place), open bar, matching groomsmen and my amazing friends/family are making dessert. By eliminating these things and picking a venue outside of the major city we were able to save a lot. The groom and groomsmen are wearing black suits which they already own.
    We’re spending 12k ish for our wedding of 100. We are in New England one hour outside of a major city. The breakdown:
    1. Venue: $4800, we’re renting it for the weekend and travelers and close friends/family are staying with us
    2. Caterer ($4680 which includes tables, chairs, silverware, plates, set up, clean up, gratuity and a bartender. We provide the booze and the caterer pours it per venue contract).
    3. Booze and drinks: $600 (we are serving wine only plus a few soft drinks for non-drinkers)
    4. Dress: $200 + $25 for alterations, found by chance at a discount store before I’d had a chance to go dress shopping. It needed no alterations except a 1 inch hem.
    5. Hand-painted huppah from etsy: $300
    6. Other decorations: $50 (we DIY/DITed centerpieces from vintage fabrics that I already had and colored glass bottles that I asked other people collect). I bought some vintage buttons on ebay, glue etc but most of the stuff I had.
    7. Veil: $30, etsy
    8. Hair: for me and 4 bridemaids: $330, I’m doing my own makeup
    9. Photographer: $750, a very talented but relatively inexperienced recent grad from a local art school.
    10. Save the dates were emailed and we used glosite.com for invites and RSVP, $40

    Obviously I don’t know how I’ll feel about it after. We both have big families and we chose to have a little less wedding and a little more honeymoon (we’re going to Greece for 12 days). Our parents gave us money towards the wedding and left it up to us how it was spent.

  87. What you spent on your wedding. About $6000

    Where you live. Dallas/ Fort Worth This is a very reasonable area, especially if you do not fall into the Wedding Industry trap.

    How big your wedding was. 9 at our ceremony; about 60 at our reception.

    How that budget roughly broke down. Our ceremony was on a Wednesday, on a day that was meaningful to us as a couple. Our reception was held 3 days later on Saturday. This was great since I didn’t have to think about the ceremony and reception details all at once but mean that I had 2 hair appointments and could not afford to get my dress dirty at the outdoor ceremony.
    Ceremony venue $200 (botannical garden), dress $200, alterations and accessories $200. My husban’s suit was more than my dress- he never told me how much he spent (But he looked great and has a nice suit he’ll be able to wear again). Reception was at a restaurant, food and wine was about $2000 . Cake $500, photographer was probably $1500 including the additional album we bought for my Mom, Rings $700, hotel for 2 nights in between the 2 events $400 (my husband insisted it was necessary to keep me from driving myself mad doing stuff at home before the reception). Hair, table decorations, guest book, having the house cleaned (best decision ever!) and all of the other incedentals made up the balance.
    My husband’s parents surprised us with a wedding fund of $5000 they had been saving since my husband was a kid (which he knew nothing about). It was the same amount as we had already set for our budget. We decided not to increase our budget due to the gift, but we now had the wiggle room to splurge if an area cost more than expected.

    What your biggest challenge was. Insecurity about inviting the majority of guests, many of whom were out of town, to just a reception. Was anyone going to be offended? Was it worth them coming all that way just for a “party”? In the end we chose to invite everyone we loved and let them decide if it was worth the journey. You know what, almost everyone came, and no one made us feel akward about it.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding. In the end, we spent money on the things that made the event less stressful or were really important to us, and that worked prefectly. We could have spent less, we could have spent more, but what we spent made it “our wedding”. That’s not to say that each decision was easy – there was a lot of stress in the decision making process… but we looked at all of our options and picked the one that felt most right to us each time. Looking back, we are very happy we did not go into debt for our wedding and still feel it represented us very well.

    1. Thanks so much for posting this! We are planning a similar set-up: ceremony with no more than a dozen people, then a reception at my parents’ home for about 60. I am a little concerned that people will be offended if they are invited to the reception only, and I’m glad to hear it worked for you.

      1. Harriet, last year one of my best friends from college got married in a very small ceremony overseas (just family, only 7 people including bride and groom!) in February and then in July had a large reception in her parents’ backyard, and it was totally fine — it felt much like a wedding for the guests in fact (there were toasts and dancing and yummy food and lots of catching up with old friends) and a very small wedding ritual from my friend’s mother’s heritage. And we (the guests) were all happy to be there to celebrate with them; it didn’t matter that there was no official wedding ceremony. That morning my friend even said how glad she was that she had already gotten married — the idea of combining all the emotions of her wedding day with the stress of having a big party would have been way too much for her to handle. So I think the wedding first, reception later thing is totally fine!

        (Sorry Meg & all, I know this is off-topic but I wanted to chime in!)

      2. I had the ceremony & the party the same day, with only our closest friends invited to the ceremony itself, and it worked out beautifully.

  88. As one from ‘over the pond’ I’m finding ths totally addictive, especially when I’ve multiplied my budget by 1.5 to exchange it into $.
    I don’t have a budget. My parents are paying for everything and are much better at spending money than I am. I do feel incredibly guilty (and embarassed) by how much they are paying for the day.. the easiest way to explain it is we’re expecting to spend about £20k, about $30k. I’m not sure of salaries in the US but that is more than a newly qualified UK Teacher earns in a year (OMG I hadn’t thought of that)

    about £12k is going to the venue/catering/drinks
    we’re spending £1k on my dress, another £1k on the photographyer
    Everything else,(flowers, invitations, suits, bridesmaid, registrar) are each costing between £300 and £500 .
    the honey moon isn’t included in the £20K that is the only bit we’re paying for!

    At the minute I feel quite guilty about the budget (although as we’re quite close now I have better things to worry about). we could achieve so much with that money.. buy a much bigger house etc and I’m not sure I could spend that much if it was my money (I defo couldn’t afford it!). I think in time I will almost forget the budget. At the minute I know it’s really important to my parents.

    I also worry my friends (or more my fiance’s friends who I don’t know as well) will judge me for being spoilt.

  89. We ended up spending about $4500-$5000 on our wedding and half of that was paid by our parents (the hubby had to deal with a lot of unemployment last year due to the poor economy).
    We live in the suburbs near the Twin Cities
    I think the final count ended up being around 75 guests
    Budget Breakdown – Let’s see if I can remember all this. :p One of the best finds was a venue that ran us $400 for the entire day – owned by the city. Food was under $1000 for everyone – we went with Chinese buffet (our favorite). My dress with alterations cost around $250. We were able to get a friend who does photography on the side to take all the pictures, and we just paid for his airfare and lodging – under $1000. We also hand-made all of the invites and put together the decorations ourselves, which in a lot of ways saved us money, and an uncle happens to be a DJ and did a fantastic job for free.
    Our biggest challenge originally was finding a venue that wouldn’t cost us $5000 and upwards when you add food to it – I can’t even remember how I finally found ours – a restored barn owned by the city – best deal of the day!
    Overall we were really happy with our budget and how much we spent. We managed to stay under $5000 (or right at) like we had hoped, though originally we thought we could do it for less. I don’t have any regrets on how the money was spent, though…. very few things were wasted and it turned out fantastic.

  90. What you spent on your wedding: In the end, we spent around $2000- almost all of which was our own money. My parents paid for the rehearsal dinner and my grandmother helped with the building rental, but otherwise, it was pretty much all us. My wife (eek! My wife! …It’s still pretty new) and I are both crafty women who love to bake, so we made our own invitations and most of the decorations including the tablecloths, I made both of our veils and my own wedding jewelry, and we baked (with my mother and sister’s help) all of the goodies for the dessert reception.

    Where you live: We live in a city, but when home to my parents’ for the wedding, and they live in a small town in the midwest.

    How big your wedding was: We invited about 130 people, and 100 came.

    How that budget roughly broke down:
    Dresses, veils, shoes, jewelry: (for two of us!) $400 together
    Community center rental: $100 (paid for by my grandmother and my parents)
    Baking supplies to make all the food: $300
    Materials to make the invitations: $80
    Postage: $80
    Decorations, and supplies to make more: $200
    Rings (two engagement, two wedding bands): $600
    Bridesmaids’ gifts: $100
    Mother of the bride’s gifts: $50
    Rehearsal dinner: $140 (a gift from my parents)
    Flowers: $150 (We bought them in bulk and made all the arrangements and bouquets ourselves)
    Photographers: free, as a gift from two amazingly talented wedding photographers whom we’ve known for years.
    Wedding cake: folded into the cost of baking supplies. My sister made it.
    Music: free. We made a playlist and played it from the sound system in the community center.

    What your biggest challenge was: finishing all the invitations during finals (we’re both in college) and finishing up the nearly 1000 cookies and cupcakes we made in the week before the wedding.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding: Fantastic. We are both budget-minded, crafty people, and wanted our wedding to reflect that… and honestly, I think it did, better than I could have even expected.

    1. Oh, I forgot about the honeymoon, which I meant to include as a postscript on my post. We live about 7 hours from St. Louis, so we went and spent a week there in a nice hotel downtown, and went out to nice dinners, went to a concert, went to the science center, botanical gardens, etc. It was a wonderful week, and due to booking out hotel on hotwire.com (where you can see the location, star rating and amenities of the hotel, but not the name until you pay), our hotel was $250 for five nights instead of $1000. Hooray! It was a great week. We ended up spending about $600 including gas to get there.

  91. We’re at t-minus 3 weeks.

    And I am so glad (like a few others) that so many here aren’t quite clear on what they spent.

    I felt a bit like a wedding planning catastrophe because we didn’t have a break down and we weren’t really keeping track. But in any case, we saved our moneys for two years in our “wedding fund” and were gifted a few items.

    Here goes:

    We live in a small Canadian city on the East Coast. Getting married in a village of about 500ppl, outside of the “big city”.

    Guests: 50
    Venue: 6000$ (including table rentals, service, set up and our cottage).
    Food+17 bottles of local wine: 2500$ (ish, for a black box local and seasonal menu yay!)
    cake: gifted at the DEMAND of my parents. We’re also having home made pies (made and frozen in advance)
    Dress: 3200$ (for a “Made in Canada” dress- my parents paid 60%).
    Shoes: 54$ (handmade on etsy)
    Suit: 600$ (also made in canada yay!)
    Photog: 2500$ (gifted to us from his parents)
    Invites: 50$ (we created and printed ourselves, post-consumer recycled cardstock cost a bit more though)
    Welcome Bag: 50$ (making most of it ourselves)
    Minister: 150$
    Flowers: 150$ from the farmer’s market
    Rehearsal dinner- gifted to us from his parents
    yoga class morning of: gifted to us from friends

    Money gifted from various relatives over the two years: 3000$ (extra above “gifts” of photog and dress).

    so looking at those estimates I’d say we’ll probably have spent (or someone, with the gifts) 16,000…

    biggest challenge? The fact that I had to wrap my head around a wedding that had what i wanted (venue on the ocean) and how much that would realistically cost.

    So instead of keeping a strict budget, we just kept putting what we could afford in the “wedding fund” and after the first 6 months of saving we realized how much we could spend. Also, getting so.much.judgement from friends about the price tag of all my items. Since we didn’t want to get married in the Royal Canadian Legion, and I wanted a dress that wasn’t made in China, and we have ridiculous expectations and pressure from both sides of parents, eloping and small-alternative wasn’t an option.

    i’ll be happy when it’s over and we’re married. :)

  92. OMG this is going to end up being the most stress-relieving resource for wedding-planning couples on the entire Internet. Look at the variety of budgets! Look at the variety of locations! Look at the lack of judgment!

    Ladies, you’re amazing.

    Meg, you rock.

    1. I totally agree. I’m right at the starting line of this whole ordeal and its so comforting to know that my budget idea is obtainable, but at the same time that if I happen to go a bit over… it happens… and I won’t want to jump off a bridge at the end of it.

  93. This is a great idea. Thanks for this!

    ■What you spent on your wedding:
    This is a bit of a gray area, because my mother is a small business owner involved in an organized barter system. It’s basically a credit card type thing and calculated in dollars, but it’s not cash out of pocket. I’m not sure exactly how this system works, really, but my mom assured me this was the best way to do things, so our food and rentals came from a caterer also in the system. So the grand total was something like 30k – 32k, but 17k of that was bartered. Honeymoon is not included, as we had separate budgeting for that. Of the cash portion, it was split basically in half between my parents and us, with some help from an aunt.
    Northern NJ, which is expensive due in part to proximity to the city.
    ■How big your wedding was:
    Planned for 120, ended up with about 100.
    ■How that budget roughly broke down:

    *Food (stations, hors doeuvres, small buffet, cake) and alcohol (4 hours open bar with one fancy beer for the husband and last hour just soda, coffee, and tea), including wait staff – $12,000 (bartered)
    * Rentals (tent, 120 chairs, tables, lighting, leg drapes) – $5,000 (bartered)

    * Tips/taxes/service charge on bartered stuff – $3,000
    * Photography – $1,300
    * Venue – $3,000 (one place for ceremony and reception)
    * Rehearsal – $600 (covered by in-laws and held at my Aunt’s house)
    * Rings – $1,000
    * DJ – $700 (iPod DJ package thingy, plus second sound set-up for the ceremony)
    * Flowers – $700 (centerpieces, bouquets, aisle markers, petals, all bought in bulk and arranged ourselves)
    * Dress – $950
    * Suit – $300
    * Veil – $400 (this was a shocker, but it was hand made using lace from my mom’s dress, so at least I can say it’ll be an heirloom)
    * Hair – $500 (my mom ended up paying for everyone at the last minute)
    * Invitations – $400
    * Decor/DIY stuff (Save the Dates, all decor, programs, etc.) – roughly $1,000, but that’s definitely estimated.

    ■What your biggest challenge was:
    My wonderful, awesome parents who were just really unprepared for wedding spending. They really wanted to pay for everything, which was very generous of them, but they also did not want to do basically what we’re doing here. We never once had a specific conversation about dollar amounts or expectations, and they refused our offered contribution, telling us to save it for the honeymoon, so we basically planned the wedding blindly. We absolutely paid attention to cost and tried to keep it as far down as possible, but when expenses started rolling in and they saw first hand how much we get gouged on weddings these days, they had to reevaluate what their contribution would be. This was totally fine with us and we were happy to pick up anything they couldn’t, but because we’d never had a budget conversation (and they still wouldn’t do it, even once the plans changed), it led to a lot of confusion and scrambling, and a fair amount of guilt, several months into the process.

    ■How you feel about your budget post-wedding:
    Basically ok. There’s definitely some guilt because I can’t look at $30,000 for one day and not feel guilty, but we also know that we did our best to keep things under control and not excessive. We didn’t spend any money on anything that we didn’t want (so no transportation, no fancy lighting) and we were happy with everything, so the money was well spent. We also could have done it much cheaper if we’d paid cash for a less expensive caterer, but even though the dollar figure is higher with what we did, it helped everyone tremendously to have it be bartered through my mom’s business.

  94. I’m still in the midst of planning, but OMG do I love this post. LOVE IT. It’s like the original poster went into my brain and asked about all my stress about having a budget that’s very middle of the pack for DC Metro (where the average wedding is 35K)

    Ladies-you all rock!

  95. * Still planning our wedding, but def have almost all numbers in
    * CT, semi small town
    * 150 MAX hoping for less when RSVP’s come
    * Looks like the reception will be the biggest cost at approximately 11,000, my dress is downgraded thanks to preownedweddingdresses at a mere $700 (including veil woot-woot) Photographer contact is currently for $2000, could easily be $3000-that cost was important to me to keep because I KNOW our photographer is awesome, I am making our centerpieces($200), save the dates, favors-hand painted wine glasses ($200) ,church decorations, and programs, quite possibly will make the bouquets as well, I’m hoping when it’s all said and done we can recoop some of our linen $ because we decided to buy instead of rent, ($600)
    We have had a good year and a half to be able to plan and buy, thus making all this spending not as noticeable but I believe if we tally true numbers I will be ill.
    The current disaster I’m trying to avoid is my fiance’s obsession with renting a Bentley, for $400 for the day or $1000 for the weekend, is he SERIOUS? Between the two of us we have 7 children all in the wedding, 5 of which are girls who will need dresses bought as well as shoes, accessories and hair, we are fortunate enough to have a family member who has graciously taken on the hairdresser role for the majority of our party.
    The DJ will also be a friend $300-$400, but I hear standard wedding Dj’s are like $1000 and up.

  96. Total spent: $9,700 ($14,500 if you include rehearsal dinner and honeymoon)

    Location: small city in northern New England

    Attendees: 85

    Budget break down:
    – Venue and catering (same vendor) – $4,000
    – Open bar (beer, wine, one cocktail option) – $1,500
    – Photographer – $1,500
    – Wedding bands – $1,400
    – Invitations, save the dates, postage – $425
    – Dress, alterations, and shoes – $205
    – Groom’s tuxedo rental – $150
    – Flowers for 5 homemade bouquets – $80
    – The rest was various small expenditures (paper to print programs, guestbook, etc, etc)
    – Officiant, hair, jewelry, dj/emcee, cake – all contributed by generous and talented friends and family

    Biggest challenge: Honestly, there weren’t any big challenges. We were very fortunate.

    Thoughts after the fact: We couldn’t be more thrilled. Everything came together beautifully, and we’ve heard from many of our guests that they enjoyed themselves immensely. We paid for everything ourselves, and we’re really proud of what we were able to do with the money we spent, and the experience we were able to have and share with our nearest and dearest. There’s nothing that we would have changed if someone had financed the day for us — we made all the decisions together and spent what we felt comfortable spending. We used about a third of our available savings because that’s what a wedding that was very “us” ended up costing.

  97. I’m getting married a month from today (yippee!), so these numbers aren’t 100% set in stone since the RSVP deadline is next week.
    Total Budget:
    My budget is around $6300. My dad gave me $5500 (let’s face it, he has no idea what these things cost. Poor thing thought $16 per person for the food was outrageous!) and I am responsible for the rest. I knew I didn’t want to come out of pocket by a lot and that there were much more important things I’d rather spend our money on (i.e. home renovations, vacations and my ring. I love my ring.), so we kept it as frugal as possible.

    Where do you live:
    I live in Atlanta, but my wedding is in rural upstate South Carolina.

    Number of Guests:
    Approximately 100 guests.

    The venue is at a state park and was $856 for the entire day. Because we’re doing it on a Sunday, we were able to cut the rental cost in half. Plus, this fee includes tables and chairs. My mom is making the runners for the tables, at a cost of around $50. Dinner is from a local restaurant and is a two meat, three veggie dinner (with tea and lemonade) for $16 per person! My photographer is a college friend who (at the time) was getting her feet wet in the business. Now she’s booking left and right, so I got in while the getting was good! Finally, we’re having cupcakes from Publix instead of a layer cake. We can get 100 cupcakes for about a third the price of a wedding cake and there’s a lot less trash (plates, forks, etc.). Finally, the RSVP cards were postcards, eliminating additional cost of postage and the paper waste from envelopes!

    My splurges were my dress ($700) and cocktail hat/birdcage veil ($250). I never got to go to the prom, so this was my one chance to get “THE” dress, so I took it.

    The biggest challenge, for me, was making up my darn mind. I knew I didn’t have a lot of money, so I would work myself into all kinds of knots trying to save a dime. It seemed to take me forever to finally break down and get the invitations I wanted from Printable Press. I’m so glad I did, and it didn’t break the bank. Also, I’m not very patient, so being too “DIY” just gives me the jitters. I am making my own button bouquet and a topiary ball for the flower girl to carry, but anything above that is just too much for me :-) It’s hard being a budget bride when you’re not especially crafty!

  98. Way to go, Meg! Okey dokey, here’s the skinny:

    We spent about $3,800 on our wedding, which took place in our friends’ backyard, in a major out-west city. We had 45 guests, who were primarily our close friends. The only family members we invited were our parents and my brother in law.

    General breakdown: $1300 on food and booze, $600 on attire for both of us, $500 on photography (which included our pros, as well as purchasing a Holga and medium format film, as well as processing), $350 on decor, $500 on rentals and pre/post wedding house-cleaning for our hosts, $400 on gifts for attendants and family. (Those estimates are all rounded up). $100 on a wedding ring for him, no wedding ring for me.

    The biggest challenge overall was navigating the waters of an immediate family and close friends only wedding, which was imperative to keeping the wedding small and inexpensive, which was our #1 goal, (after getting married, of course). Every couple grapples with guest list issues, specifically around family, and ultimately everything worked out great. Another struggle for me was photography, because I felt an insane amount of pressure to “splurge,” but I just couldn’t get to a place where I felt OK about it. Ultimately we found a great professional couple who were new to town and took on our wedding at a dramatically reduced price (which still felt majorly steep to me), and we loved them. BUT, in retrospect, I wish I’d gone with my gut and skipped the pros altogether, because when I look at ALL the pictures from the day – the professional ones, the ones I took myself (yes, I took my own camera to my own wedding and used it liberally), and the ones friends took, the ones I love the most are those in the two latter categories.

    How do I feel about our budget now? Well, I’m incredibly happy that we stuck to our guns on the family thing and kept the wedding small and inexpensive. $3,800 is quite cheap in the grand scheme of weddings, but it’s still a lot of money. And when I think about it in the context that it was basically a backyard BBQ for 45 people, with some wedding vows thrown in, I feel kind of sheepish. Because HELLO!?!? We spent almost FOUR GRAND on a BARBECUE!?!??!!?! I mean we spent about $85 per person, total, which is hardly bargain basement.

    1. And yet it was really far more than a BBQ, because no one hires a professional photographer for a BBQ. ;)

      This post on having a small wedding leads me to make a request of Meg. Meg, it would be really interesting to have a post on the subject of guest lists. I’m interested in knowing the WHYS of how people decided how many guests to invite.

      I’d love to see an in depth discussion on that subject alone.

  99. As of yesterday, we have one month to go, but the costs are more or less set.

    Total: $7,000

    Location: Rivertown of $25,000 in Minnesota

    Size of Wedding: 80 guests (invited 130, expected 100)

    Budget Break-Down:
    Attire: $550 I got my dress cheap from a bridal store that was going out of business, and my soon-to-be husband is renting a tux.
    Ceremony: $300 for the church and officiant
    Flowers and decorations: $350. local and in-season bouquets/corsages for the wedding party. DIY centerpieces.
    Honeymoon: $350 for lodging in a small resort town in MN.
    Invitations/Stationary: $400 for invites, thank you cards, programs, and postage (lots of DIY)
    Jewelry: $525 for both bands
    Photography: $400. A good friend of ours is just starting up. We know she’ll do a lovely job.
    Reception: $4000
    Gifts for Wedding Party: $200

    Biggest Challenge: not feeling guilty. Because my soon-to-be husband just finished graduate school, and becuase I just started a new graduate program (requiring a rather expensive move to a new state), we haven’t been able to set aside much money for the wedding. My parents were thankfully willing and able to cover most of our wedding expensives, but they were simultaneously quiet about a spending limit and surprised by how expensive the wedding industry is. (My dad kept telling me to have the wedding I wanted. My mom kept saying “It really costs that much?!”). As a result, I often felt we should be spending less–even though we decided on a $7,000 budget early on and have been able to stick to it pretty closely (though we are counting on that dollar dance to fund honeymoon dining!)

    How I feel about it: now that the cost is about set, I’m feeling much better about it. Our families are fairly spread out, and it will be wonderful having everyone together. I think we’ve prioritized well–attire isn’t that important to us, and although it will “look” like a wedding (and I love that I both love and don’t feel too guilty about my dress!), we put most emphasis on the reception venue and food. We wanted good food and a casual yet classy and intimate celebration with close family and friends. I hope (and believe) that’s what will happen next month.

  100. I’m a long-time lurker and I feel a bit funny posting about my wedding since it is SOOO different from all of the comments I just read. But here goes:

    We didn’t keep receipts or anything so my best guess is that we spent around $1400.
    We live in Portland, OR but our wedding was on the Colorado River in Utah (we took our immediate family and a couple close friends on a two-day rafting trip, got married at camp that night, then had a reception of sorts at a campground near Moab, UT for family and friends that lived in the area).
    There were 18 people on the river and 40 people at the ‘reception’.
    This breakdown is my best guess:
    $60 marriage license
    $133 river permit
    $400 beer/wine/liquor
    $150 camping fees to reserve the group site for two nights
    $500 food to feed everyone all weekend from Saturday morning through Monday morning
    $125 my dress (which was a shirt and skirt that will be dyed so I can wear them again as every day clothes)
    The best man took pictures for us, our officiant was my husband’s uncle, we had no flowers or centerpieces to worry about, my husband wore clothes he already owned, we wore sandals we already owned, we sent email invites, and I made our rings.
    The biggest challenge was organizing rafting gear for 18 people since a good portion of that group had never been on a rafting trip. And I stressed a bit about the food since my husband’s mom took care of buying and prepping everything. I wanted to pay her back and she would’t let me.
    Looking back on it all, I feel absolutely elated about our wedding, what we spent and, more importantly, how personal and intimate it was to have our favorite people with us for a whole weekend to celebrate. It’s certainly not something that would work for everyone but it was incredibly perfect for us.

    1. Your wedding sounds amazing. I kinda wish I knew who you were so I could ask for snapshots (I’m assuming that *someone* took at least one photo?) :)

    2. Cost-wise, your wedding was very similar to ours. I know what you mean about feeling odd posting here, but, you know, I’m glad there’s a wide range. I would hate for someone who’s just starting to plan to get overwhelmed, thinking there’s no way that they can put together a wedding that’s less than $2000 (if that’s what they were hoping to do). But I’d also hate for someone to think that they spent “too much” and feel bad for it. I dunno…it all seems pretty relative to me.

      Also, I absolutely love your rafting-trip wedding. It sounds so beautiful and peaceful. :)

      1. I wanted to “exactly” your comment and say that I completely agree that it’s all relative. Meg’s post and the following comments will hopefully enforce the fact that a wedding is a celebration and you get to choose how you want that celebration to happen. There’s no reason anyone should feel bad for the decision they made.

  101. This would have been SO HELPFUL for me when I started planning so I am very happy to give as many helpful details as possible (so this will be long).

    Our total was about $50,000, including everything that went into the wedding weekend except not including engagement ring, honeymoon or photo albums (because we haven’t ordered them yet), and not including about $1K I secretly paid my mom back for for my shower (because I considered it part of her total wedding contribution which I had received separately in a big check), and not including costs of planning like travel costs from NYC to surrounding areas to look at venues and meet vendors. If these other things were included, I think it would add another $12K. Also, my parents threw us another 60ish-person party in my hometown which was probably another $5K for that party and entertaining my in-laws that weekend (they refused to tell me the cost or consider it part of their big check).

    My wedding was 200 people in NJ (NYC area) at a single venue on a Saturday night in August 2009 that included a caterer and did not require separate rentals, and was a very stereotypical/traditional big Jewish NYC area wedding (meaning enormous amounts of food and drink, ceremony/cocktail hour/dinner and dancing reception flow of events, fancy dress). Our vendors were mostly people who serve all of NYC area. Funds came about half from my parents, about $10K from his parents (combined, they are divorced), and the rest from us. We came to those numbers by asking each of our parents what they wanted to contribute and not arguing about it at all or telling the other how much each was contributing. We live in NYC, are in our early 30s and I make/had saved enough money to have paid for the wedding on our own if we needed to. I also admit, only because it is true, that because our guests were largely of the cash gift set, we realistically expected to “make back” from cash gifts a large portion of what my husband and I contributed, which had a small affect on our budget calculations. We actually had a few extraordinarily and unexpectedly generous gifts, so we actually received in cash gifts from people other than our parents a bit more than the share my husband and I spent.

    Deatiled breakdown – tip included everywhere if paid:

    – $24,000 for full service venue (including enormous amount of food/full open bar, taxes, service charge, gratuity for maitre’d and servers, all tables/chairs/linens, huppah, table cards, candles for cocktail tables) (heavily negotiated by my fearless FIL to make our favorite place fit just barely into our pre-determined venue budget)
    – $6700 for 8-piece band + 2-3 members played during ceremony and cocktail hour
    – $4300 for photographer with second shooter + 200 prints + DVD of all images (but does NOT include photo albums, as we haven’t ordered those yet)
    – $2500 for videographer with second shooter + DVDs
    – $2100 for flowers (7 bouquets, 8 bouts, 3 corsages, about 22 simple, low centerpieces)
    – $900 for invitations for 350 guests (inc. rsvp cards/envelopes) + thank you cards + stamps (we knew a ton of people would not be able to come but needed to invite for family reasons)
    – $900 my dress (inc alterations) + shoes + jewelry (veil was my SIL’s, no special shapewear)
    – $600 husband’s tux + shoes + accessories
    – $1200 hair and makeup for me + 6 bridesmaids + 2 moms + trial for me
    – $120 mani/pedi for me, my mom, 1 bridesmaid who arrived early
    – $400 for partial day DOC
    – $1400 for two buses to take guests between hotel and wedding, and extra trip for just wedding party (school buses, WAY cheaper than charters)
    – $600 rabbi
    – $500 misc. gifts for our wedding party (inc. flower girls)
    – $300 plain gold band wedding rings (engagement ring not included)
    – $500 ketubah (local artist, but simple) (pro framing was about another $200)
    – $1100 rehearsal dinner (about 30 people, informal Italian restaurant, BYOB alcohol in next #)
    – $700 food/alcohol provided by us during the weekend, including snacks in hotel welcome bags, food while getting ready with wedding party, and “brunch” (dunky’s donuts and coffee) in our suite the day after for all guests who wanted to drop by and chat (which was a lot of people)
    – $500 hotel for us for weekend (inc. gigantic suite for girls getting ready and next day brunch, not including our brothers’ rooms where guys got ready) (after negotiation by MIL who plans conferences in hotels and was considering this hotel for a conference)
    – $300 misc. (marriage license, paper for DIY’d programs, invitiation directions insert and placecards, paper bags for hotel welcome bags, a photo book of pics from our childhoods, failed veil-making project, etc.)

    I feel good about our wedding costs post-wedding, although it still feels like an enormous amount of money. I originally thought we could do it for $30K-ish, but we made choices that ended up being important to either me or my husband that I do not regret but definitely increased costs (big guest list, Saturday night, large-ish band, particular place/vendors). There were certain things that didn’t matter cost-wise in the grand scheme of things but I was stubborn about for some silly reason – for example, I just refused to spend more than $1K on my outfit or more than $2500 for flowers – and I managed to meet those goals so those are quiet victories for me. Other things we spent money on just for peace of mind but weren’t needed in hindsight (detachable cap sleeves for my strapless dress in case I felt self-conscious, the DOC to make sure the buses were on schedule and had the right directions) – and I do not regret those expenses either.

    Financially our biggest struggle was our guest list. We invited 350 people for family reasons, and we expected anywhere from 200-300 to show, but most likely 250…which is a really big range to plan for financially since the food is the most expensive cost and the main one that moves with the guest list, and also meant we needed a venue that could hold 300. We ended up with the low guest count mostly because a bunch of family groupings of guests were taking their kids to college that weekend, and some second cousins had a conflicting family event – very, very sad to miss them, but a happy effect on our budget.

    Emotionally the biggest struggle for me was owning my wedding choices. I grew up in a different region, and never expected to have a wedding like the one we had (although I have plenty of relatives around here so I had an idea of this kind of wedding based on the bar/bat mitzvahs, I had never actually been to one before I was an adult). My husband is from NJ and never expected to have any OTHER kind of wedding than the kind we had. We could have done something much more simple and much less expensive and been within my/my parents’ preconceived idea of a wedding, but it wouldn’t have felt like the right kind of wedding to my husband and his family. It took me a long time to own that I wanted this kind of wedding too, not just push all onus for it on my husband and his fam. In reality, we had a wedding that all of us (me, my husband, and all three sets of parents) felt really, really good about and felt like was worth the cost and didn’t stretch our resources more than we could each afford, so I’m very happy with that.

  102. We plan to spend $30,000 and we are just a smidge under budget right now. Our parents are sharing most of the cost 50/50, and we have been saving for some things ourselves. All wedding expenses are being paid for in cash. We are getting married in downtown Baltimore, MD. There will be 100 to 120 guests. Half the budget is going toward food and drinks. The other 15K is being spent as follows: $4,000 on two dresses for two brides, $4,000 on a band, $4,000 on the venue, $1,300 on Flowers, and the rest is being spent on the misc. extras. Note: we won a photography contest and are only paying for our photographer’s travel. The biggest challenge was getting over spending so much. It is way more than we were initially comfortable with, but we are spending it on great vendors. Ultimately, spending the money on independent and local businesses that support marriage equality helped us come around. For example, our dresses are sweat shop free, and made by awesome, independent designers. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t cringe when I think of how much money is being spent.

  103. ■ Less than $10,000, but I don’t exactly know how much less- and that’s one thing I actually feel guilty about.
    ■ Chicago. Hu=ge city, very expensive.
    ■ 49 people, including us
    ■ 82% food, 10% venue, 2% lookin’ pretty, 6% booze
    ■Letting my folks pay for the food and venue was tough for me, we were going to go low key and self-cater, b ut my mom had a fit and insisted on a nicer venue and a caterer at her expense. It was hars at the time, but now I see it as a wonderful gift that I thoroughly enjoyed.
    ■ I wish we knew exactly how much we spent. I feel kind of guilty about that because shouldn’t we? I mean, we work hard for the money. But, I only feel guilty about it when someone asks, which is almost never, and after I leave this comment I’ll probably go right back to not worrying about it.

    1. Dude, why would you feel bad for not knowing?? Why does it matter? It’s spent, it was fine, it’s done. I don’t know why you would even care, let alone feel guilty.

      I don’t have an exact total for ours, and I like it that way.

  104. 25 years ago I got married at the Helmsley Palace in New York, in a black tie sit-down dinner dance for 90 people. I found the list, last year, of what was spent. I kept a record because my parents were divorced, and each had agreed to pay half. Each of them had substantial financial resources. We had a band, ceremony pianist and cellist, opera singer (family friend, she sang Al Green’s You Send Me), flowers, a non-professional photographer, lots of kitschy but cool favors from Canal Street $0.10 vendors.

    I’d say my wedding was a reasonable benchmark for a highly luxurious (but kind of intellectual) wedding, without “platinum” excess. Well, except the oyster bar for cocktail hour, but I didn’t realize that it would be stacked 8 feet high when I chose. But nothing gold, no ice sculptures, no rose petals, no fireworks, just the standard wedding checklist for the day, at a luxury hotel in the most expensive city in the US.

    Total, in Manhattan, in 1986, $22,000. That is the equivalent in today’s dollars, without additional “wedflation,” of around $80,000. The dress alone cost $1,100, the equivalent of about $5,000. Perhaps Meg can tell us what wedflation would make the price for all this now. Honeymoon and rings were extra. It was a great event, not stuffy at all, involving society mavens and federal judges dancing until midnight. I don’t regret the money – it was affordable for my family at the time.

    But as you all know, the event components turned out not to matter all that much in the long run.

    1. Nope, that’s $42,400 in todays dollars using an inflation calculator. But with WEDflation? I’d say that would cost you between $150,00-$200,000 now. Haaaaa! Fun, no?

      1. Having planned those types of events for work (big corporate NYC event planner type work), the hotel and catering alone these days will cost you about $30-$40k on a weeknight. On a Saturday evening? For the hotel alone (which would include a middle of the road catering package) it’d be about $50-$60k. Not counting flowers/etc. NYC prices are insane, once people hear “wedding” it gets worse.

  105. We spent $11,000 for 150 people all in.
    We had an awesomely cheap caterer but brought all the booze in ourselves.
    Food: $4500
    Booze: $2000 and non-alcoholic beverages
    Photographers: $2600
    Dress: $800
    Flowers: $500

    Those were out biggest expenses.

    My one recommendation would be make an excel spread sheet and monitor everything you spend. I know its geeking out pretty bad, but at the end of the day you know where all your money is going and it helps keep things in perspective.

  106. We live in a medium-ish city on the west coast. Inexpensive compared to LA or New York, expensive compared to rural areas a couple hours out of town. We had about a hundred people.

    Our basic budget was $10,000. My parents graciously offered to pay for the wedding (and didn’t even ask for that many disturbing things in return!) but Zack and I paid for Zack’s suit, the rings, the ketubah, the honeymoon, and the thank you notes. I’ve seen wedding budgets that didn’t include those things, but they were definitely part of The Big Wedding Expense for us, so I included them here.

    Broken down by category, we have:

    My dress: $530
    My shoes: $65 (and I wore them every day all summer, too)
    My jewelry: $0 (One friend ended up making my necklace, and another made my headband.)
    Zack’s custom made suit: $425
    Total clothing: $1020
    (Not included: my DIY makeup cause I’ll be using it frequently, Zack’s shoes likewise, and the couple hundred we paid for gas to drive from Portland to Seattle three times for fittings.)

    Invitations: $194 ($63 paper, $20 envelopes, $20 origami paper, $12 glue, many hours printing and pasting, $39 stamps)
    Website: $24 for two years of domain name registry. Hosting by a friend for free, design and coding by Zack and I.

    Rings: $340 (titanium with a gold stripe)
    Ketubah: $366 (flowinglass.com/art/index.html and we were VERY pleased)
    Ketubah backing and frame: $250
    Legal license: $60

    Day before the wedding Meet ‘n’ Greet Picnic:
    Park reservation: $101 (they charged me a special event fee because I reserved two sites, grr)
    Food: $400 (mostly just snacks–I wish we’d had more)

    Total pre-wedding purchases: $2755

    Park site: $280
    Chairs: $0 – borrowed metal folding chairs from reception site across the street
    Decoration: $0 – didn’t need any, it’s a freaking park :)
    Officiant: $600 – this included 6 months of premarital counseling, TOTALLY worth it
    Huppah: $0 – officiant provided, and we decorated it with strings of origami cranes
    Water and igloos to keep it cool: $120 – I don’t know if this actually happened, I was a little distracted pre-ceremony when it should have gotten set out. ;)
    Battery-operated amplifier: $60 – we plugged in an ipod for preceremony music, and my dad had a microphone and stand (he’s a musician) we used during the ceremony.
    Ceremony music: $0 – my parents played us in and out.
    Kazoos, noseflutes, and streamers for the post-ceremony parade: $98
    Pedicab: $100 – rode us at the front of the parade after the ceremony, and also brought my more decrepit relatives across the street from the ceremony to reception site.
    Total ceremony-related expenses: $1258

    Photography: $900 (wasn’t sure whether this should go in ceremony or reception. This was for Zack’s brother in law, who’s a professional wedding photographer. Originally I didn’t want to pay for photography at all, but this was more in the spirit of making sure their family could afford to fly across the country.)
    Site: $995 (10 hours, access to full kitchen and PA system, and included chairs and buffet tables – this was an amazing find)
    Round tables: $98
    Tablecloths: $189
    Centerpieces: $210 (I actually don’t know if this is the final number, but it’s what we budgeted)
    Music: $0 (iPod and in-house PA system)
    Food: $1351 (included 7 buffet dishes, loan of serving and warming devices, and the delivery of all of the above, but not serving)
    Servers/cleaners: $250 (we hired two teenage friends-of-friends)
    Biodegradable plates/bowls/cups/flatware: $95 (we also used some of this for the Saturday picnic.)
    Blueberries: $206 (about 20 of us went to a pick-your-own organic farm on Saturday–it was one of the highlights of the weekend and we picked EIGHTY-TWO pounds of blueberries.)
    Ice cream: $50 (we didn’t have cake, and as far as I know no one missed it)
    Root beer and ginger beer: $274 (we had a taste-off!)
    Total reception expenses: $4618

    Post-wedding expenses:

    Four nights at a Forest Service cabin: $269
    Two nights at a Bed and Breakfast: $309 (we probably spent a hundred on fancy dinners out, but we do that at home often enough that I didn’t count it.)
    Food and camping gear: $221

    Gifts for wedding party and family: $168 (necklaces for the girls, celebrity action figures for the boys)

    Thank you cards with pictures on them: $98 (including postage)

    Total post-wedding expenses: $1065

    OMG-it’s-all-over total: $9696 (plus or minus a hundred or so in case I added wrong.)

    This DOESN’T include a bunch of money my parents spent on a pre-pre-wedding dinner, or the pre-pre-pre wedding dinner that my third cousin paid for by surprise. Yes, my family is crazy, we had three pre wedding dinners. And by crazy I mean crazy awesome. I loved it.
    It also doesn’t include my bachelorette party, which I hear was on the expensive side what with all the booze we drank, but no one let me pay for any of it.

    I can’t remember what my biggest challenge was, budget-wise. Probably convincing people that I didn’t WANT to pay more than we were–I wasn’t compromising for the sake of the budget, I genuinely wanted things that happened to be cheaper. Like our rings–they’re mostly titanium with a little gold. Titanium happens to be cheaper than gold, and it is also more durable and lighter. We didn’t want solid gold rings.

    How I feel about it now? Fairly good. There are a few things I wish we’d spent less on, primarily clothing. It was exciting to get custom made clothing, but the designer’s style didn’t actually match our style, no matter how pretty her website was. I wish I’d thought that through a little more. Plus Zack just changed into old shorts and a t-shirt pretty much immediately after the ceremony–I wish we’d gotten him fancy clothes that felt just as comfortable.

    I feel really lucky about the cost of the venue and the food. The food was from our favorite restaurant, and we totally lucked out that they happened to cater for an unbelievably low price. The venue was COMPLETE luck–we didn’t even know they rented it out, just wandered in and asked.

    The officiant was one thing that was more expensive than I originally planned, and COMPLETELY worth it, 100%. We really clicked with her, and met with her several times before the wedding. Totally, totally worth it.

    We chose not to pay for alcohol or a DJ/band. We had less dancing than we had hoped, but more conversation. Which works out, because that’s true in our day to day lives as well. We didn’t pay for flowers, because both of us have mild allergies and several of our guests had pretty severe allergies. The centerpieces were potted herbs, and we got to take them home afterwards. :)

    I want to say something about photography. To get good pictures, we “should” have spent $2000 to $8000 dollars on a photographer. I think that’s a fair price for the amount of work a good photographer puts into wedding pictures. I chose not to pay that deliberately, and instead to rely on unedited shots from Zack’s brother in law, and pictures from our many talented amateur photographer friends. I had a few vague thoughts about this from the beginning, and then read a bit in Miss Manners where she talks about the value of pictures that exist only in our heads–how those images change with the years and get a nostalgic glow. Those were the images I really wanted, and I felt like focusing on physical pictures would have prevented me from getting as many mental pictures as I wanted.

    And someday I will write a wedding grad post about it, because ugh this got ridiculously long.

    1. Any chance you’d share your venue, caterer, and officiant details with me?! My beau is from eastern Oregon, I’m from the south, but right now we live in Seattle, and we are thinking of tying the knot somewhere in the pacific northwest! Thanks!!! (cooke dot jenny at gmail dot com)

  107. We spent $45,000 on our 110 person wedding in a medium-sized city on the expensive east coast. The break-down was as follows (all totals include tips for relevant staff):
    • Reception Catering (cocktail hour w/ raw bar, family-style dinner, desert bar, cake!, beverages, vendor meals, kids meals, rentals, gratuity, tax, and a gift for the coordinator): $17,338
    • Facilities rental (an old carousel building on the Long Island Sound, in a public park) and required staff: $3,400
    • Speaker and mic rental for the outside ceremony: $1,000
    • Attire, accessories, and alterations for the me and the groom; hair and make-up for me, the wedding party, and my mom: $5,935
    • Flowers (low centerpieces for 14 tables and one larger arrangement for the escort card table): $3,679
    • Kick-ass soul band from Cambridge we used to see every week we lived there: $5,300
    • Photographer (who was amazing and hilarious the whole day): $2,912
    • Stationary (letterpress save-the-date, invite, website reply card, envelopes, stamps, thank-you cards, calligraphy): $1,871
    • Rings (and ring bowl): $533
    • Transportation/lodging (one hotel night for us, buses to transport guests): $1,065
    • Gifts (wedding party, family, welcome bags for just our families): $1,715
    • Misc (website, marriage license, flip-flops, sings, etc): $315

    Our families and friends are spread around the country and we just didn’t feel comfortable trying to lean on them to do big things like assemble flowers or do set-up. Well, more accurately, we tried, and ran up against a lot of resistance. People just weren’t getting here in enough time or know the area well enough to feel comfortable pitching in with big things. So we hired a caterer that also did day-of coordination. We prioritized the things we wanted most (delicious food, a band we loved, a cool photographer) and then did without the rest (favors, bouquets, transportation for the wedding party, ceremony seating and decorations, someone to videotape, etc).

    I worried a lot along the way that because our parents (and my dad and step-mom) in particular had given us so much money that they were going to expect things to be a lot nicer/fancier than they were. We were married on a beach in a public park, with almost no seating or decorations for the ceremony, and the linens and décor for the reception were laid back and fitting with the venue (I thought) but probably didn’t look like what one would expect for that much money. But the weekend of my dad in particular just bounced around the whole time so obviously overjoyed I can’t believe I was worried it wouldn’t look nice enough.

    We did end up feeling like we spent too much in some areas and could have spent double in others and it would have been worth it. I bought a dress and stationary before we really realized what costs for catering, rentals, and our location were going to add up to. I am extremely organized and felt on top of the budget but then expenses would pop up with the caterer with no explanation as to why we hadn’t been told before. The food was fantastic, which was a priority, and I don’t regret hiring them because of that, but I really felt like they were not entirely upfront with us about total costs.

    But we had been conservative enough with our budging that despite the unexpected things that came up, we were going to come in significantly under budget. So we made a last minute decision to spend money on a few things for our families and friends (a welcome dinner for my family, hair and make-up for the whole bridal party, gifts for the wedding party and family, welcome bags for family, etc.). I don’t regret that at all!

  108. We got married in San Jose, CA, and spent about $9,000 total, with 65 guests
    Food: $3000
    Photographer: $1100
    Clothes (mine & his): $750
    Sound Sytem: aka buying new ipods & some new music: $450
    Rentals: $400
    And LOTS of other miscellaneous costs that just kept adding up :)

  109. Our situation is complicated – we got married with just our parents at city hall and had a nice lunch and small party in our apartment that night, then hosted 2 receptions later, one in the US and one in the UK. We paid only for the US reception, my parents paid for everything else. Overall we spent close to $19,000, which seems crazy to me, but there were things that were important to my parents and a separate set of things that were important to my husband and I, and we ended up paying for all of these things, some of them two or three times over.

    Wedding day (San Francisco=EXPENSIVE, 4 people at wedding, 20 people at small party): $5500?
    flights for four parents to our city: $2000
    my husband’s suit (we paid for this, not my parents): $700
    alterations to my mom’s wedding dress (which I wore): $150
    license/officiant: $150
    lunch: $500
    flowers: $25
    cake: $120
    champagne: $200
    photography: $1500

    UK Reception (Oxford=EXPENSIVE, 68 people):$7,500
    venue/catering/booze: $6000
    entertainment (we rented punts for everyone for two hours): $700
    cake: $100
    flowers: $50
    decorations: $75
    and I’m sure there were a few other incidentals I’ve forgotten

    US Reception: (Mendocino Count, CA=medium, 30 people): $6,000?
    venue: $4,000 (retreat center for three nights over a holiday weekend)
    invitation materials/stamps: $120
    dress/alterations: $250 (I was done wearing a wedding dress by this point)
    ingredients for food: $500 (we self-catered, but also bought food for a whole weekend)
    booze: $500
    ring: $250
    car rental: $200
    photographer: $800 for four hours (based in SF)
    cake: $60
    and probably more that I don’t remember. Definitely more if I count my parents’ plane tickets/hotel room to get there: another $2000 or so.

    To be honest, I was FINE having my parents pay for the first two parts, since they were more important to them than to me (not the getting married, but the spending money on those parties). The last one was a bit of a struggle between me and my husband. He didn’t really see the need for any more weddings, but I really wanted a party that my close friends from college and earlier in my life could come to – we hadn’t even invited most of them to the first two events because of timing/location. And, in the end, I think we agree that it was ABSOLUTELY worth it.

  110. One thing I’d like to throw out there is that those oft-cited numbers regarding the cost of the “average” wedding are terribly misleading and no one should feel the need to use them as a guide in determining what they are going to spend on THEIR wedding.

    The truth is that $28000 (or whatever the number is now) is NOT the cost of the “average” wedding. It’s the average cost of ALL weddings, and as we all (should) know, averages are a terrible indicators, because of their susceptibility to outliers.

    If 99 couples spend $10,000 on their wedding, and 1 couple spends a million, the average of all these weddings is $20k, when in fact almost everyone spent half that.

    The truth is that the MEDIAN cost of a wedding in the United States is about $15,000.

    1. Yeah, though it can hurt you in the other direction too. The median price of a wedding in New York or San Francisco is no where near $15K, or $28K, if we’re being honest, it’s higher. Way higher. But $28K would be on the high end for the middle of the mid-west.

      So, basically, I think those numbers are damanging any way you look at them.

  111. THANK YOU, MEG! This is such a huge relief. As someone who’s not-yet-engaged, but talking about wedding budgets with the boy anyway, I have found it very frustrating trying to find the cold, hard facts about how much things cost. All wedding blogs, even indie ones who have their “entire” budgets right on the home page, seem to skirt around it.

    Thank you, to every single wedding graduate who has posted here today. It honestly has nothing to do with how much $ you spent–just laying it all out there (esp. those of you who included everything around the wedding, not just ceremony and reception) has given me incredible peace of mind.

  112. Our wedding budget is actually a point of pride for me. We live in Nashville and the average wedding here is around $24,000. Our original wedding budget was $8000 and three and a half weeks before the wedding, we are approximately $300 over budget. $8300 isn’t too shabby, but it does not include my engagement ring, my dress (parent’s wedding gift) or our honeymoon (in-law’s wedding gift).

    We have invited 130 people (including kids who count as 0.5 an adult) and our RSVP count is 110 including the bride and groom.

    To break it down roughly …
    Venue (includes chair/table rentals) $1010
    Photog $1600
    Catering $2200
    Cake & Cake decor $280
    Attire, Alterations, Accessories, Rings – $500
    Bridal Party Gifts & Officiant – $175
    Wedding Night Hotel
    Stationery – $200
    Videography – $125
    Coordinator – $550
    Decorations – $300
    Flowers – $400
    Favors – $110
    Linens – $250
    Hair/Makeup – $300

    Our biggest budget challenge was conflicting priorities. I wanted to spend the vast majority of our budget on photography and videography. My fiance refused to pay for videography, so I found a film school grad eager to add to her portfolio and a good photographer in our budget. I’m definitely a bargain hunter and lucky, fairly artistic and clever. Being a professional graphic designer came in handy.

    I have no idea how I feel about the money right now because we aren’t on the other side of it. I’m sure I’ll have some regrets.

  113. We spent roughly $10k for what we considered our wedding week. We got married in San Francisco and had friends/family fly in and we wanted to make sure they had fun in the city we love so much. We took a group of people to a giants game and to dinner at slanted door and we did a bunch of stuff in the city the day before the wedding. I’m not sure what the pre-wedding activities totaled. The wedding itself was small with 40 people, including us, in attendance. The wedding site was $2k, the catering came to $3k (and the food was amazing, we totally lucked out in being able to use a restaurant that we love during a time they are normally closed), the photographer was $1400, the dress was $300 (including alterations), I bought my bridesmaids their dresses and necklaces which came to $360, we rented the groomsmen’s tuxes and I’m not sure how much that cost, we spent $80 on flowers from the farmer’s market that we arranged the morning of the wedding. My in-laws hosted the rehearsal dinner and the day after brunch and we spent roughly $300 on alcohol for an after party hosted by my sister in law.

    The biggest challenge didn’t have to do with money, it involved staying sane leading up to the wedding. One of the things we wanted was to avoid stress but it turns out any type of wedding you have brings stress. I feel good about the amount we spent. There were things I would have liked to have that we skipped largely because we were trying to stay in a price range where we were comfortable. We wanted to have fun and have our loved ones have fun but at the same time we didn’t want to burn through our savings and we wanted to save up to buy a house. Good news is we moved into our first home the day before our anniversary. It pretty much rocked to wake up in our own home one year after we said our vows.

  114. Location: Minneapolis/St. Paul
    Headcount: 236
    Total catering bill (plated dinner; desert; beer, wine and soda; soft pretzel-late night snack; 19% built in gratuity; banquet, liquor and misc. tax): $9,950
    Dress: $450 + $50 to add bustle-ability
    Hair, makeup, accessories: $50
    Groom’s Attire: Free tux rental with groomsmen’s rentals
    Ceremony Site: $1,000
    Ceremony Musician: $450 (should have been $350, but the groom forgot about our $100 down payment and wrote another $350 check. We didn’t have the energy to try to politely fix the mistake. We liked her and she got a huge tip = not the end of the world.)
    Officiate: $450 (included 6 counseling sessions which got us $70 off our marriage license…and strengthened our marriage or something ;) )
    Marriage License: $30 after discount
    Rings: $1,500
    Gifts for attendants/helpers: $540
    Paper Goods (save the dates, invitations, programs, place cards; paper and cardstock from Office Depot, magnets and thread from Michael’s, printing at FedEx/Kinkos): $450?
    Postage: $200?
    Photographer (engagement and wedding; excluding albums and prints which are yet to be purchased): $2,100
    Photobooth Rental: $1,000
    DJ: $450
    All decorations: $550?
    Unity tree to plant in yard: $50
    Flowers: None
    Wedding Cake: None

    So I think that adds up to $19,270

    I should mention that we had the wedding on a Friday evening, so that lowered some of our costs. The ceremony was at 6:00pm, dinner was served at about 7:30pm, and the dance was from about 9:00pm to 1:00am. We took all the pictures before, so there was no cocktail hour. People kept telling me that it would all go too fast because the event was starting so late (6pm vs. the usual 2pm or 3pm around here), but I thought it was fine.

    I’ve never actually added this all up before. There were probably more incidentals. This is about $3,000 more than we originally budgeted, but we sort of just kept an eye on our bank accounts and spent what we felt we could afford. I feel like we were reasonable about the things we included and did enough research to get a decent price. Nothing we bought was an amazing deal, but I do feel like our time is worth something.

    And sometimes, it’s just a lot easier to hire someone than to do it yourself. I had grand plans to make a homemade photobooth because I was DETERMINED to have one, and it probably would have been cheaper, but the cost difference, for me, wasn’t significant enough to deal with all the stress of the logistics of a homemade booth, not to mention all the work. At the same time we had fun DITing the paper goods and decorations. I felt like we had a good balance of DIT and just sucking it up and paying someone else to do it.

    The biggest challenge was the size of our guest list. His mom has 8 siblings and his dad has 4. My family isn’t small, either because I have 2 dads = three separate families. We couldn’t bear to cut anyone out, so I think we sent invitations to nearly 500 people. We knew a bunch of them wouldn’t come because we didn’t get married in either of our hometowns, but right in the middle, where we live.

    We had our reception in a hotel ballroom and I would have loved to have it somewhere more original and beautiful, but we needed a space to fit at least 250 (we ended up with 236, but we had no way to predict that and we invited SO many people). We were also concerned with making our small-town family members do a bunch of “city driving” (especially after drinking) and decided we were either going to provide a shuttle service or have the reception at a reasonably priced hotel where they would feel comfortable staying. The hotel won.

    We weren’t planning on any parental contributions, but at the last minute our parents ended up giving us about $8,000, total, so that was an amazing help.

    Overall, I’m content with what we spent. $19,000 is a TON of money to us, but we aren’t in debt because of our wedding and threw a kickass party for ALL of the people we love.

    1. I am so glad to see I’m not the only person who invited a ton of people so as not to leave people out that we knew would not come, and a ton of that ton of people didn’t come (expected and unexpected). I always feel funny telling people that! I’m the anon who invited 350 and had 200, expected more like 250.

  115. THANK YOU MEG! I have always said that nobody talks about how much weddings cost (just that they cost a lot) and as a result I’ve offered to be open with my friends about mine. I just got married less than two weeks ago and probably had one of the larger weddings on here so far, so here are some details.

    Wedding Size: 240
    Cost: Our wedding was probably a $30K wedding, but some things we lucked out on, as I will explain below and we did not spend that.
    Location: Small town Kentucky (around 12,000 population)
    Venue: Free since it was at my parents property, but they worked their butts off all summer making it beautiful and this is not considered part of the cost of the wedding as it was an investment in their home.
    Rentals of tables, chairs, dance floor, stage, linens: $3400
    Catering: $8500 including tips
    Bar: My husband’s father owns a liquor store and did the bar, but if we had payed for this it probably would have been about $10K
    Photography: $2K (would have been 3K but again liquor store owning father-in-law did a trade with the photog for some booze for a party she was throwing!)
    Videography: $200
    Band: $1500
    String Quartet Plus Sheet Music: $670
    Parking Lot Attendent: $100
    Shuttles from Hotel: $218
    Porta John Trailer: $1000
    Cake: $15 (I won a gift certificate for $75 worth of cake and only got a small one for cutting and pictures)
    Pies: Free, family and friends generously baked pies for the wedding
    Rings: $900
    Dress: $580 with alterations (thanks preownedweddingdresses.com!)
    Veil: $20, made myself
    Groom Suit: $750
    Wedding Coordinator: $1500
    Extras like fabric for cloth napkins, flatware, compostable cups and plates, decorations and flowers that were grown by family and friends or purchased locally, self made corsages and boutineers from wildflowers and dried things: $1000 give or take

    We lucked out on weather (78 and sunshine!) but if it had been raining we would have paid $2800 extra for tents. Phew!

    My parents gave us $5K, and my husband and I probably spent $14K tops. His parents paid for the band, the porta john trailer, the bar, and various odds and ends like certain flowers, out of towner bags, string lights, invitations (his mom gets them at cost).

    We are lucky to be making good money right now and to have not gone into our savings or into debt and lucky to have generous parents. I feel good about the money we spent and felt that we spent money where it counted and where we needed good professionals, and did things ourselves were we could and where it was not worth the money to us to pay someone. The wedding was a reflection of us and our parents’ talents as well as their business discounts! I feel like we threw a damn good party for a lot of great people without hurting ourselves financially. We were also lucky in many ways!

  116. We spent $65,000 for an 130 person wedding in Washington DC, during high season. And when I say “we” I mean my mom (and my hubby’s parents stretched for the rehearsal dinner). She gave us an original budget of $125,000, which we asked her to spend on loans but no dice. So we tried to be “reasonable” and pay vendors we loved and whose values (locavore/organic/small business) we supported:
    So, nitty-gritty (approximate and not-inclusive of trip):
    Venue: $12500
    DJ: $2000
    Photo: $4000
    Dress: $6000 (THIS IS MY ONLY REGRET. I could have worn almost anything and felt lovely.)
    Hair and Make-up for me and bridesmaids: $1500
    Tux: $200
    Alcohol: $4000
    Food: $13000
    Buses: $2000
    Shoes: $700
    Jewelry (not including wedding rings): $1000
    Wedding rings: $1100
    Wedding planner: $3000
    Decor and flowers: $12000
    Lighting: $2000
    Rehearsal dinner: $2500 (paid for by his father)
    Gifts for bridal parties: $2000
    Paper goods: $1500
    Officiant: $1500

    Wedding planning being over. Priceless.

  117. I’m so glad we get to talk about money!! Mostly, because we had a lot of issues with money that caused a lot of horrible feelings throughout the process — that we wouldn’t have a lovely ceremony, what people would think about our wedding compared to theirs (we were the last of our friends to get married and everyone had REALLY nice weddings). My biggest challenge was that horrible feeling and calling a good friend a month before the wedding in tears and heartbroken telling her that we couldn’t have the wedding and was thinking about just calling it off. So it was a process and very hard but it turned out absolutely beautiful.

    We had the ceremony at my parents’ house, backyard wedding with about 75 guests. Oh yes, my parents live in Southern California, high desert and things were SLIGHTLY cheaper than Los Angeles (the closest big city) but not by much.. We spent abot $2000 which was on the tables, chairs and linens, the DJ and the food and everything else was literally gifted by our family and friends. My aunt bought my dress and paid for the alterations. My brother-in law gave us our honeymoon and tuxes.. My cousins stayed up all night and cooked and served dinner and cake. Our friend who is a professional photographer gifted us our wedding photography. My aunt also gifted us our cake and decorations, My parents gifted our flowers. My mom made double fudge brownies. All of our guests came hours early to set up and decorate and were ESTASTIC to help (remember, your wedding is not an imposition people! :-)))

    Looking back, I feel really good about our budget, not because we only spent two grand and saved oodles of money or have judgetments about how much money should be spent, etc. I feel good about it because I never thought in a million years, we would be able to have a wedding with only two grand and NEVER in a bazillion years expected the outpouring of love and generosity we received from our closests friends and family.

  118. TOTAL: Just about 15,000 (original budget was $6,000)

    LOCATION: Oregon (town of about 150,000)

    GUEST COUNT: 75 guest invited

    CATERING & BAR: $3000 (early brunch menu)

    PHOTOGRAPHY: $3000

    CEREMONY & RECEPTION VENUE: $1800 (both held in the same place, got the location for 6 days! (yes, I said DAYS) due to off season event.

    PARTY RENTAL: $1000 included all tables, linens, plates, silverware, glasses…everything

    WEDDING COORDINATOR: $2500 (aka priceless) don’t have a lot of friends/family in the area to help out…had to hire reinforcements

    BRIDAL CLOTHING: $1000 this includes all clothing and accessories and alterations

    FLOWERS/CENTER PIECES: $300 we grew herbs in jars and collected a lot of wild flowers to dry and use

    DJ: $400 (for ceremony and reception music) got him for half price thanks to the Wedding Coordinator

    CAKE: $250 strategically got a cake for HALF as many guest so we didn’t have any left over


    OFFICIANT: $400


    BIGGEST CHALLENGE: All the DIY projects

  119. We spent about $4000. (See note below about what is NOT included in that total.)

    We live in Toronto, but had the wedding in a small city in Alberta (Canada!). So I would say we were about middle-of-the-road in terms of how much things cost. Some services were cheaper than if we’d had the wedding in Toronto, but we also ended up buying a lot of things in Toronto and Calgary, both of which lean toward the expensive side. I think for us it was less about the “average cost” of things in the area, and more about choosing to buy from places that weren’t the usual wedding vendors, and therefore had more “regular life prices” than “wedding prices”

    Our wedding had 65-70 guests. I’m not sure what the exact number was, since we ended up with a few “bonus” guests we weren’t expecting.

    The breakdown in CAD:

    Flights from Toronto to Calgary – $300 (amazing seat sale – we left straight from Alberta to our honeymoon, so no return airfare)

    Venue – $300 for full day rental of a private picnic area, operated by the city (included kitchen, sheltered picnic area, horseshoe pit, industrial-size BBQ, playground, and beautiful coulee landscape/river)

    Dress & Shoes – $640 including alterations (double what I wanted to spend… ach!)

    Partner’s outift – $250 for new shoes, shirt, tie and cufflinks (wore a tried-and-true suit that he already owned)

    Veil, Corsages & Boutonnieres – $15 for miscellaneous supplies; they were all made by me using bits and pieces from my mom’s wedding dress

    Hair styling – $130 for my trial run and day-of styling, plus paying for my maid of honour and bridesmaid

    Attendants’ Clothes – $100 for the one groomsman who “forgot” to pay for his shirt & tie… mm, yeah.

    Gifts – $100ish

    Marriage License – $30

    Invitations/Website – $0 (I designed the invites and emailed a PDF; my partner collaborated with two good friends to set up the website)

    Food – $900 including supplies for kebabs, baked potatoes w/fixings, spinach salad, french bread, italian sodas, coffee, hot chocolate, apple cider – all food was lovingly/crazily prepped by family and friends in the days before, aside from hot food which was grilled in between the ceremony and reception

    Wine – $400 for one bottle of red and one bottle of white for each 8-person table (close to half our guests don’t drink alcohol, so we actually still had wine left over)

    Tableware rental – $350 for wine glasses, water goblets, dinner plates, serving platters (cutlery was all borrowed from a church)

    Random food stuff – $100 (napkins, tin foil, pie lifters, dishes for sour cream, butter, etc.)

    Dessert – $0 a lovely assortment of pies gifted by friends and family – we actually had WAY TOO MUCH PIE which is not a bad problem to have

    Photography – $0 my sweet sister did our engagement shots for free, and my woman of honour’s father did our formal portraits before the wedding. Awesome. We have yet to get a single print made though, so that will be an additional cost.

    Decorations – $100 as my woman of honour worked tirelessly to help me make tin can lanterns to decorate/light the tables and dancefloor – the only other decorations were a few bunches of balloons marking the turnoffs on the road and tiki torches along the edges of the site… We also had a hand-made wedding arch from my best friend’s wedding lovingly brought down to use during the ceremony, but the windy weather kept blowing it over, so it sat this one out.

    Sound system – $250 It has been suggested that our speakers were overkill for the size of the wedding. I think the non-stop dance party was worth it. We had a laptop set up with a playlist – no DJ.

    Officiant – $0 as my awesome uncle did it for us

    Accomodations – $200 for the two nights post-wedding. Pre-wedding, we were lucky enough to stay (along with most of our family members) at an amazing couple’s home who let us take over their beautiful house for a week.

    Fire pit/wood – $60 for extra fire pit (which it turned out was not needed). We also had a built-in fire place in the venue and a patio heater which we borrowed.

    Chairs – $0 borrowed from a church

    Blankets – $20 thrift store finds to keep people warm during our outdoor wedding in the Spring – it was snowing up to two days before the event, so the blankets were important.

    Miscellaneous – $100-200 (I’m sure there are odds and ends I am forgetting!)

    ****NOTE**** We did spend more than this on “wedding-related” things if you include my engagement ring for $1500 (I don’t have a wedding band, and my partner is still wearing his $20 silver ‘travel ring’ since we do not have the money to get him the ‘right’ ring at this time) and our honeymoon (which was mixed in with a research trip to Indonesia that my partner received grants for, so it is difficult to say how much was “honeymoon” spending and how much was “research” spending since the airfare counted for both… however we did receive $2000 from his parents to spend on our honeymoon, and I think that the “leisure” portion of our travel + my airfare probably worked out around that amount). We also bought several hundred dollars’ worth of gifts while we were away to send to those who helped out with the wedding, so the cost of those + postage + thank you postcards are not included in the total.

    In terms of our biggest challenge… well, I guess it is confession time! Most people with our level of spending (under $5000) are extra-admirable members of the “We decided we weren’t going to go into debt for our wedding, so we only spent what we could spare from our bank accounts” club. We are not those people. Our wedding was almost entirely financed by debt, as I spent last year underemployed partly by choice and partly not-so-much-by-choice, my partner is in grad school, and we both have a pile of student debt. Our non-debt “savings” going into the wedding planning was about zero. So we did the unthinkable, and we paid for our wedding using a student line of credit, which was a little difficult for me to accept. I read some very sensible blogs during wedding planning, and the general consensus seemed to be “If you are not sold out to the WIC, you don’t go into debt,” which I SO GET, but I also sometimes wonder if the “no-debt” advocates would feel the same way if they were in our place. I don’t know. What I do know is that for us it was worth all the time, energy, and yes, extra debt to pay off. We were always going to “start off our marriage with debt” because of our student loan situation. So now we have a few thousand dollars more to pay off in the coming years. Oh well.

    How do I feel about our budget post-wedding? I feel fine about it. If our situation had been different, I would have been all for saving up and not going into debt. But that was not our situation. Our original plan of an elopement was effectively thrown out the window when I suggested it to my mom and she cried for THREE DAYS. So. We were going to have a party, and it was going to cost something, and I think that is okay. There are things that would have been done more cheaply if our engagement had been longer, but a three-month planning period that also happens to be the planning period for a four-month trip through Indonesia and the end-of-semester for one partner’s first year of grad school and the finishing-work-for-an-exhibition period for the other partner, as well as the packing-and-moving out period for both of you…well, that put all the millions of DIY projects out of reach. It also meant that I bought a dress which was more expensive than I had hoped, since time was tight. It also meant that we rented sound equipment, rather than coordinate complicated schemes for borrowing it from friends. C’est la vie.

    I think we could have spent a lot MORE if we had gotten into the endless “Plan Bs.” “What if it rains and there’s nowhere to dance because the shelter only covers the tables? What if the snow doesn’t let up and all our guests freeze and we freeze and we have to cancel the wedding because of a blizzard? What if the sound system is too intense and we blow the breaker at the park? What if???????” Essentially, there was no Plan B for anything, and I am SO GLAD. It saved sanity and tons of cash. We didn’t need a tent. We didn’t need a back-up venue. When it was snowing 2 days before the wedding, I went to The GAP and bought a nice sweater to wear with my dress (oops, forgot that in the budget breakdown… $70). I am glad that having a rough idea of how much we were comfortable going into debt put the breaks on all the back-up planning and forced us to go with the flow and take whatever came to us.

    1. I just wanted to throw out there that as one of those people who is freaked out by the idea of debt, your reasons for going into debt for your wedding make total sense to me and I probably would have done the same thing in your place.

    2. Thank you for posting your budget! I know going to debt (esp student loan debt) seems to be taboo everywhere but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do (coming from two in-school people with broke parents). It seems like you spent in really responsibly ways and I admire your mindset!

  120. We spent about $500. My parents, though, spent around $10,000. Though, I don’t really know how much they spent. Originally, the plan was for them to give us $5000 toward the wedding and we would cover the rest. However, my husband and I quickly learned that we suck at budgeting, balancing, saving, and spending wisely. And used about $2500 of that toward actually wedding stuff, and the other $2500 to moving across country (and help us while we were both unemployed and living across country). We got to the wedding week, which was back home, and my parents paid everything that had not been covered, which was basically everything. Day before the wedding, my dad sits me down on a bench in the rain as we’re getting ready to go talk to the caterers and we had a heart to heart about money. It was shameful, embarrassing, painful, and so not what I wanted to do that day.

    Anywho, we had out wedding in a small Texas town. The venue was $700 — but it was on a university, so we had to use their catering which was a whopping $3000 for crappy food.

    We had 111 people. We invited 192 at the request of my family. We had 180 RSVP and 111 show up.

    Venue: $700
    Food: $3000 with alcohol
    Dress 1: $119
    Dress 2: $586 — this cost was split amongst some fantastic friends after dress #1 disappeared.
    DJ: $2500 — and he was awful. But our choices were limited.
    Photag: $600 — we used a student. He was brilliant except he didn’t photograph our ceremony…. I’m still working on not crying over that.
    Wedding Coordinators: $500 — this was a “tip.” The girls who did out wedding offered for no charge because they were looking to build a clientele list. But they were amazing
    Invites: $300
    Flowers: $86
    Decorations: $200

    The rest went to odds and ends: candles, stuff that had been forgotten at my parents house (3 hours from the site), hotel rooms etc.

    My biggest challenge was spending the money. I really hated it. I hated seeing where it all went, but that’s totally wrapped up into my own other issues.

    Ugh. That’s how I feel post wedding. I hate that we spent so much on the food and DJ, and both were awful. I hate how my husband and I learned the hard way how we handle money (badly) and how we don’t talk (ladies and gents, TALK). I also think that hindsight, I would have paid, and paid well, for a different photographer.

  121. I live in a rural area but in a college town so there are slightly more resources available than would be the norm. I had budgeted $5000 but ended up going slightly over that. I paid for most of it with $2000 donations from my divorced parents (I could have taken more from my Mom but I wanted to ensure that they both contributed equally to limit squabbling). I saved the rest by myself mostly because my husband is cheap and I didn’t want to have to sacrifice anything to his fiscal conservatism. He still to this day thanks me for realizing how important the wedding would be but he also has no idea how much it actually cost.
    I don’t remember exact numbers but here’s what I can tell you:
    I was lucky enough to land a beautiful venue with an outdoor setting at a non-profit house museum for $550. Catering and photography were the most expensive parts. We had about 75-80 people and ended up spending around $1200 on catering. My photographer was great and cost $1800. Flowers were a relatively cheap, we DIYed potted plants for centerpieces and hired out for bouquets and whatnot. My dress was an ebay purchase for $75 plus the cost of cleaning and alterations which were around $175 plus I had a reception dress made for $75. Tuxes were rented for around $100. We rented tents, tables, and chairs for around $800-$900. Our cake was a gift from a friend of my parents who runs a cake business so it was $150. We produced a music mix and hit shuffle on my laptop, my brother-in-law is a radio nerd and he loaned us his homemade speakers. We hired a string quartet for the ceremony for I think $300.

    All in all my plan for my wedding was just to have a nice wedding and I usually went for the cheapest price and sometimes that worked out well and sometimes not so well. But we were happy with our wedding and that’s all that matters.

  122. Okay, here we go…

    Total Budget: $6,500
    Location: DC-area [the ceremony was in MD; the reception was in DC proper]
    # of Guests: 75
    How that budget roughly broke down:
       **Note: I know these numbers don’t quite add up to 6.5k. The extra $
    went to incidentals, like transportation, extra shoes, gifts for the
    wedding party, etc. The total doesn’t include the rehearsal dinner,
    which my in-laws very graciously covered.
       Ceremony venue – $800
       Reception venue – $300
       Marriage License – $70
       Flowers [paper] – $50
       Invites – $150
       Bride attire – $400
       Groom attire – $300
       Hair/Makeup – $250 [includes one makeup trial and day-of hair/makeup]
       Food – $650
       Beer & Wine – $1,500
       Donations – $300
       Honeymoon – $1,000

    DC is crazy expensive. When we first started looking for venues, I
    went through some pretty intense sticker shock. Then depression. It
    felt as if we literally couldn’t afford to get married where we lived.
    It wasn’t like, “Well, we’re not going to spend that kind of money on
    thing x, y or z because it doesn’t feel right for us.” That’s a
    choice; that’s exercising agency and making a reasoned decision based
    on your values and your means. But we just felt sort of trapped by our
    budget in the beginning. So I think the biggest challenge was
    accepting that we weren’t going to have the kind of wedding we
    initially imagined (which, for the record, wasn’t exactly a blow-out).
    In practice, that translated to hunting down a reception venue that
    was decidedly un-wedding-y, doing the ceremony at my university, and
    asking our friends and family to take on A Lot. And I’m not going to
    lie: I sometimes felt shitty about that last part. It ended up being
    wonderful and communal, but sometimes I couldn’t shake the feeling
    that we were burdening people. So as well as it all turned out, there
    was definitely a good amount of angst, guilt and self-pity along the

    That being said, we feel pretty good about our budget
    post-wedding. We spent what we were comfortable spending. People had
    fun and drank a lot of beer, even if they also helped set up, took
    pictures, or baked multiple cakes the night before. We don’t have
    wedding debt – which is nice because we already have all this super
    awesome student debt to pay off for the next several decades. So,
    yeah. It worked out.

  123. Location: MS Gulf Coast

    Guests: 75-80

    Total spent: Not sure. My husband and I contributed $2K, and parents/grandparents chipped in for the rest (approx $8K.) There were wedding-related purchases that I had nothing to do with- for instance, we didn’t want a cake, but my mom and grandmother insisted, so I told them what flavors we like and to go for it. Huband and I didn’t invest time/money into things we didn’t really care about, but if family wanted to, we were fine with it. So a few things like the cake, favors, guest book, monogrammed toasting flutes, etc. snuck in without our input and I have no idea what they cost. Also, we had to rent a tent at the last minute because it was so d*mn hot, and I have no idea what that cost, either.

    Here’s the breakdown that I do have a handle on:
    Reception/wedding venue (included coordinator, flowers, rentals, labor, set-up, break-down)- $3500
    Catering (cocktail appetizers+sit-down dinner, wait staff, bar staff)- $3200
    Alcohol- $500
    Photography (used a friend starting a photog business)- $800
    Invitations/postage (handmade on computer)- $150
    Dress+alterations- $450
    Groom’s suit, shirt, tie- $250
    Rings (not including engagement ring)- $140
    Honeymoon to Florida- $1500 (paid for by his parents, who also paid for rehearsal dinner backyard BBQ, no idea about cost on that one)
    Thank-you gifts for parents/grandparents- $150

    Music (ipod), makeup, shoes, jewelry, hair- all DIY or gifted from friends. No wedding party.

    I’m sure there are a ton of small things I’m forgetting, but this was the overall gist.

    The biggest challenge was that my husband lost his job right before he proposed and wasn’t able to find stable work through the entire planning process. We started off using our savings to pay for wedding things, but as time went by and he still didn’t have a job, we started cutting waaaay back on wedding expenses. Things like save the dates, makeup, hair trials, decorations, shoes, jewelry got crossed off the list and we figured out how to borrow or do without.

    Looking back, I feel ok with our buget. The food and venue was amazing, well worth the money. The ipod music was a great decision, but it was one of the most stressful projects. I wish money hadn’t been such a major stressor during the process because it sucked some of the fun out of it, especially toward the end when we had spent a lot of savings and were worried about how we were going to live after the wedding. Husband has a job now, but we’re still struggling to catch up. So…long way of saying, yes, it was worth the money, but I think I would have been just as happy to elope:)

  124. * Total Cost – roughly $40k

    * We live about 15 miles outside of NYC in the expensive NJ suburbs. Most vendors were hired from either NY, North Jersey or the Philadelphia area. Wedding took place in Bucks County, PA.

    * We had 145 people attend

    * Breakdown
    + Venue – $6000
    + Food – roughly $20k including full bar, buffet style meal, dessert buffet, servers, and all rentals (tables, chairs, plates, glasses, napkins, etc.) In order to shave some extra from the cost we opted for plastic cups for everything except wine and martinis.
    + Dress – $1000 including alterations and was a generous gift from my mother.
    + Shoes – $500 and were a surprise gift from my mother-in-law.
    + Groom’s Attire – $600
    + Photography – $3000 (Brooklyn based photog. – unlimited time, album, 2 shooters)
    + Photobooth – $1500 Our biggest unnecessary splurge, but people loved it and we came away with a guest book that I’ll love forever.
    + Flowers/Decor – $2500
    + DJ – $2000 (NJ based DJ – DJ and MC, Lighting design, Ceremony & Reception music completely customized. They were brilliant – worth every penny.)
    + Officiant – $850 (Northern NJ based, completely customized ceremony – totally amazing)
    + Invitations – $1100 (We used printablepress.com and had a totally customized invite created. This cost also includes printing, paper, envelopes and postage)
    + Transport – $600 (We rented a 47 person coach)

    The rest of the costs were really miscellaneous – gifts for the bridal party, makeup and hair, insurance for the venue, etc. etc.

    * I’d say my biggest challenge was guilt. My mother gifted us $5000 as well as purchasing my dress. My husband’s parents bought all of the alcohol and also gave us very generous gifts. But my father paid for the catering and the venue – a really huge sum which I still feel kind of terrible about. It was difficult to have to remind him to get checks out because I felt so insanely guilty about it. Now to be fair, I got quotes from several caterers and was prepared to do a really bare bones burgers and dogs type of meal if that’s what he said he could afford and I would’ve been happy with it. I presented the quotes to my him and told him which was my #1 choice but made it very clear that if the cost was unreasonable we could find something else and it would still be great. But my dad, in the way my dad always does, told me not to worry about it and he’d make it happen so I could have what I wanted. And I went for it. But I felt (still feel) like maybe it was asking more than I should have from a man who never says no to me. And even though I said that to him and he assured me that there was no reason to feel guilty… well, I do. Still.

    * I feel a little conflicted about the whole thing. But people are still (months later) telling me it’s the best wedding they’ve ever ever been to, that it was so much fun, and that they wished the night had never ended. And you know what? They’re right. But $40k is a LOT of money no matter how you look at it. We paid probably $15k of that out of our own pockets and yeah, maybe there were better places that money could have gone. But what’s done is done. And it really was a kick-ass wedding. Really.

  125. First-time commenter, here :) It took a question about money to bring me out of the woodwork (I am an accountant, after all – how could I resist!).

    Grand total that we paid for on our own was around $2,000, give or take $100 or so.

    The things we did not pay for were the rehearsal dinner at a local restaurant, which my in-laws paid for and probably ran around $300 or so. My parents surprised us by covering our reception dinner, which was about $1000, and my dad paid for my mom and I to get our hair and makeup done the day of, around $200.

    We also spent $11,000 on the 2 wedding bands and engagement ring.

    We got married late December of 2008 in northeast Ohio – a pretty affordable area.

    It was a VERY small wedding – just 15 guests, including our parents (4), siblings – one of which was the best man (4), a sibling’s fiancee (1), maid of honor and best girl-friend (1), her boyfriend (now fiance!) (1), one other friend (1), an aunt (1), and the maid of honor’s parents (2). So 17 people with ourselves included.

    Rough budget breakdown:
    Dress = $650
    Tailoring = $200
    Shoes (some bridal store) & Jewelry (Swarovski) = $175
    Church & Music = $150
    Flowers (local flower shop) = $450
    Hair, Makeup, Nails = $200
    Misc. bits and bobs = $200
    Reception dinner (including alcohol and platters of mini desserts) for 17 at a local vegan restaurant = $1,000

    That adds up to $3,025, of which we paid for about $2,000, plus the $11,000 for rings.

    We didn’t have to pay for a tux because my husband is a naval officer and wore his dress uniform.

    We also cut the cost of flowers and church expenses by having the wedding on a Monday. It was between Christmas and New Year’s, so our family members and my siblings in college had time off to make it there (we had guests from Washington, South Dakota, Massachusetts, and Florida, so all over the country!).

    The biggest challenge was deciding what the hell kind of wedding to have!
    We waffled about having a big party, but decided that we’d rather share the day with just those closest to us. Also, the thought of spending all that money on a big party made both of us a bit nauseous. We wanted it to be a celebration for everyone who loved us, but I have dozens upon dozens of close relatives over 1,000 miles from where we had the wedding, while my husband has a family tree that is really more like a stick – pretty much every living relative of his was in attendance. So we kept it to the bare minimum to avoid hurting the feelings of friends and co-workers.

    Do I sometimes wish I had invited a few other close friends from the area, like my belly dance troupe? Yes, definitely. But I couldn’t have invited them without inviting others, etc. etc. on and on and then suddenly we have 200 people on the list. When we talked about the whole experience post-wedding, we agreed that it was very “us” and that we were so happy with the whole thing. Those in attendance and the woman who played piano for us, who was been a friend of my parents for many years, all remarked on how lovely it was to have such an intimate ceremony, and that’s exactly what I loved about it.

    I feel awesome about the budget post-wedding. We had budgeted for $3,000 – $5,000 for it all (not including rings), and with my parents’ surprise of covering the dinner, we only paid approx. $2,000.

    We had enough savings to pay for almost everything out of pocket. Since neither of us had an excessive number of credit cards, I applied for a card with 12 months of zero interest and put about $6,000 of the ring expense on it, which we paid off within 8 months and didn’t pay a penny of interest, yay!

    We didn’t have a honeymoon – we moved to the Charleston, South Carolina area the day after the wedding, waking up at 5am to get on the road so my husband could check into his next duty station. My brother-in-law’s gift to us was renting and hauling the trailer full of our stuff, since it was on their way home to Florida. But my husband did have a week or so off once we got there before he started a Navy training school there, so we had a mini-honeymoon exploring the area.

  126. First-time commenter, here :) It took a question about money to bring me out of the woodwork (I am an accountant, after all – how could I resist!).

    Grand total that we paid for on our own was around $3,000, give or take $100 or so.

    The things we did not pay for were the rehearsal dinner at a local restaurant, which my in-laws paid for and probably ran around $300 or so. My parents surprised us by covering our reception dinner, which was about $1000, and my dad paid for my mom and I to get our hair and makeup done the day of, around $200.

    We also spent $11,000 on the 2 wedding bands and engagement ring.

    We got married late December of 2008 in northeast Ohio – a pretty affordable area.

    It was a VERY small wedding – just 15 guests, including our parents (4), siblings – one of which was the best man (4), a sibling’s fiancee (1), maid of honor and best girl-friend (1), her boyfriend (now fiance!) (1), one other friend (1), an aunt (1), and the maid of honor’s parents (2). So 17 people with ourselves included.

    Rough budget breakdown:
    Dress = $650
    Tailoring = $200
    Shoes (some bridal store) & Jewelry (Swarovski) = $175
    Church & Music = $150
    Flowers (local flower shop) = $450
    Hair, Makeup, Nails = $200
    Misc. bits and bobs = $200
    Reception dinner (including alcohol and platters of mini desserts) for 17 at a local vegan restaurant = $1,000
    Photography = $1,000

    That adds up to $4,025, of which we paid for about $3,000, plus the $11,000 for rings.

    We didn’t have to pay for a tux because my husband is a naval officer and wore his dress uniform.

    We also cut the cost of flowers and church expenses by having the wedding on a Monday. It was between Christmas and New Year’s, so our family members and my siblings in college had time off to make it there (we had guests from Washington, South Dakota, Massachusetts, and Florida, so all over the country!).

    The biggest challenge was deciding what the hell kind of wedding to have!
    We waffled about having a big party, but decided that we’d rather share the day with just those closest to us. Also, the thought of spending all that money on a big party made both of us a bit nauseous. We wanted it to be a celebration for everyone who loved us, but I have dozens upon dozens of close relatives over 1,000 miles from where we had the wedding, while my husband has a family tree that is really more like a stick – pretty much every living relative of his was in attendance. So we kept it to the bare minimum to avoid hurting the feelings of friends and co-workers.

    Do I sometimes wish I had invited a few other close friends from the area, like my belly dance troupe? Yes, definitely. But I couldn’t have invited them without inviting others, etc. etc. on and on and then suddenly we have 200 people on the list. When we talked about the whole experience post-wedding, we agreed that it was very “us” and that we were so happy with the whole thing. Those in attendance and the woman who played piano for us, who was been a friend of my parents for many years, all remarked on how lovely it was to have such an intimate ceremony, and that’s exactly what I loved about it.

    I feel awesome about the budget post-wedding. We had budgeted for $3,000 – $5,000 for it all (not including rings), and with my parents’ surprise of covering the dinner, we only paid approx. $2,000.

    We had enough savings to pay for almost everything out of pocket. Since neither of us had an excessive number of credit cards, I applied for a card with 12 months of zero interest and put about $6,000 of the ring expense on it, which we paid off within 8 months and didn’t pay a penny of interest, yay!

    We didn’t have a honeymoon – we moved to the Charleston, South Carolina area the day after the wedding, waking up at 5am to get on the road so my husband could check into his next duty station. My brother-in-law’s gift to us was renting and hauling the trailer full of our stuff, since it was on their way home to Florida. But my husband did have a week or so off once we got there before he started a Navy training school there, so we had a mini-honeymoon exploring the area.

  127. I got married in a tiny town in the midwest on a farm my parents own and then had a reception in Austin, Texas. Total budget was nearly $25,000, split between two events. The most illumating part of this process for me was experiencing the difference between vendors in a tiny town and Austin. I got the EXACT SAME CAKE for both events. In the rural midwest, total cost: $125. In Austin, total cost: $500. WTF.

    MIDWEST WEDDING- 30 people in a tent on a farm TOTAL BUDGET about $12,000
    Travel for myself and groom, $2,500
    Dress & alterations, $500
    Photographer, $2,000 inclusive of travel from Austin, TX
    Tent & chair rental, $1500
    Cake, $125
    DIY Craft projects & decorations, $1,000
    Catering, $1,000
    Gifts for family members and friends $500
    Other decorations, $500
    Rings, $300
    Flowers, $800
    Invitations, $250
    Make-up and hair products, $100

    Food and open bar at venue, $1000
    Flowers, $900
    Cake, $500
    New accessories for dress, $100

  128. So. We threw a Chicago wedding for 60 people for about $12,000 – $13,000ish a couple of weeks ago in Lincoln Park. These are the numbers I remember as I never wrote anything down, we just bought and paid as we went. This was on purpose as I tended to hyperventilate when I started to write costs down.

    Venue (included catering, linens, tables, chairs, alcohol) – about $6200
    Decor – $300
    Flowers (from farmers market and grocery store) – $120
    photographer (huge splurge) – $3800
    DJ (another splurge) – $1100
    Outfits and Misc – $1000
    I saved a huge amount by all that was donated or crafted by my fabulous family and friends.

    We paid for most of it ourselves, but our parents did surprise us with a helpful push at the end that took off some of the pressure and allowed us to enjoy our honeymoon more. The day was fun, fabulous, and a hell of a party. I can’t wait to write a post about it all as soon as I have a chance to wrap my head around what just happened.

  129. Sorry the above ^ comment got posted twice – I forgot about photography in the first one and couldn’t figure out how to delete it.

  130. Ok, let’s see. This is the first time I’ve totaled up our spending since our wedding.

    Let me first say that we did not have a budget. This is not because we (or my parents) are wealthy, but because my family does not like to talk money. Whenever I asked them to let us know what they were willing to contribute (they insisted on paying for most of it) so I could shop around and plan, I was shot down. More on this later.

    Total, we came up to about $15,000. Not including rings or honeymoon. (The rings were separate in our eyes, and the honeymoon was a week at home hiding from the world. =) )

    We live on the east coast, but our wedding was in Orange County, California, in the middle of the summer wedding “season.” We had right around 100 guests.


    Venue (ceremony and reception): $3000
    Caterer (food/drink (no alcohol)/cake/staff): $7000
    Dress: $700 ($450 – dress, $250 – alterations)
    Accessories (slip, shoes, underthings, jewelry): $350 (I made my veil)
    “Beauty” (makeup, hairspray, bobby pins/manicure): $125
    Groom’s Attire/Accessories: $600
    Flowers (self-done, purchased blooms from a wholesaler): $300
    Paper Goods/Favors (s-t-d’s, invites, programs, favors): $550
    Officiant: $200
    Photography: $300 (done as a gift, but costs had to be covered. This does not include prints as we haven’t ordered any yet.)
    Travel: $750
    Accommodations: $550
    Extra padding (because I’m sure I forgot SOMETHING in this recap): $500

    (For those keeping track, our rings totaled $1100.)

    I’d say out of the $15k, we spent $3,500. My parents spent about $10,000, with various family members (my godmother for example) gifting about $1500.

    The biggest challenge for us was the fact that no-one would talk about money. I knew my parents couldn’t afford much (what they did pay was well beyond their means) so instead of dreaming things up, I tried to get them to give me … say, what they considered a good number for invites, etc. The answer I always got was “don’t worry about it!” Um … not likely. This led to a ton of stress, as we tried to keep it do-able for my parents without having any idea of what “do-able” was. The catering was WAAAAY more than I’d planned on, but my parents chose the caterer (with our approval, the food was delicious!) … I didn’t see the invoice until the week before the wedding.

    All in all, looking at the numbers, I feel pretty good about it. There were some splurges, but also some HUGE scores, and some borrowed items. No one went in to serious debt … or really, any debt at all. All in all, we’re happy.

  131. We spent almost $20,000 on a wedding with 150 people in a large-but-affordable city. The breakdown was something like this:

    Dress + alterations (the alterations are what kills you…): $1000
    Reception (food + drinks + site fee): $10,000
    Flowers: $1000
    Photography: $1350
    Church fees (organist, pastor, wedding hostess): $500
    Invitations and other paper: $400
    Rehearsal dinner: $2000
    Hotels for out-of-town family, groomsmen: $1500
    Gifts for bridal party: $700

    Looking back, I’m feeling a pang of guilt for having spent so much. (I know, no judging myself, I just had forgotten how much it was!) We certainly didn’t need to spend that much on flowers, for example.

    The most shocking thing was how much alcohol cost. We brought our own wine from Trader Joe’s and the restaurant provided beer and mixed drinks, so we got a tab at the end of the night – it was shocking how much people drank! So, if you’re having an open bar, prepare for that.

    The hardest thing was dealing with our two families’ different ways of thinking about money. We were both living on limited grad school budgets, so we could only have the wedding because of our parents’ generosity. My parents had told us off the bat that they were giving us $10,000, and we could use it however we wanted. They are very strict budgeters, and feel that if you have an amount, you will just figure out a way to spend within that amount. His parents wanted to help as well, but didn’t think of it in terms of a budget or set amount, so they preferred to pay for certain items. The challenge for us, then, was to make sure that we asked them to cover things that added up to less than $10,000 – my parents would have been insulted if the in-laws paid for more than half. Also, our parents’ way of thinking has definitely influenced the way that we look at budgeting, so my husband and I had a lot of fun discussions about finding a middle ground.

    The budget was definitely one of the most stressful things about the wedding, primarily because I felt so guilty about spending money on seemingly frivolous things. If I had to do it over, I’d probably try to figure out a way to spend less, but I doubt I’d succeed. :)

  132. Location: Minneapolis/St. Paul
    Headcount: 236
    Total catering bill (plated dinner; desert; beer, wine and soda; soft pretzel-late night snack; 19% built in gratuity; banquet, liquor and misc. tax): $9,950
    Dress: $450 + $50 to add bustle-ability
    Hair, makeup, accessories including shoes: $80
    Groom’s Attire: Free tux rental with groomsmen’s rentals
    Ceremony Site: $1,000
    Ceremony Musician: $450 (should have been $350, but the groom forgot about our $100 down payment and wrote another $350 check. We didn’t have the energy to try to politely fix the mistake. We liked her and she got a huge tip = not the end of the world.)
    Officiate: $450 (included 6 counseling sessions which got us $70 off our marriage license…and strengthened our marriage or something ;) )
    Marriage License: $30 after discount
    Rings: $1,500
    Gifts for attendants/helpers: $540
    Paper Goods (save the dates, invitations, programs, place cards; paper and cardstock from Office Depot, magnets and thread from Michael’s, printing at FedEx/Kinkos): $450?
    Postage: $200?
    Photographer (engagement and wedding; excluding albums and prints which are yet to be purchased): $2,100
    Photobooth Rental: $1,000
    DJ: $450
    All decorations: $550?
    Unity tree to plant in yard: $50
    Flowers: None
    Wedding Cake: None

    So I think that adds up to $19,300

    I should mention that we had the wedding on a Friday evening, so that lowered some of our costs. The ceremony was at 6:00pm, dinner was served at about 7:30pm, and the dance was from about 9:00pm to 1:00am. We took all the pictures before, so there was no cocktail hour. People kept telling me that it would all go too fast because the event was starting so late (6pm vs. the usual 2pm or 3pm around here), but I thought it was fine.

    I’ve never actually added this all up before. There were probably more incidentals. This is about $3,000 more than we originally budgeted, but we sort of just kept an eye on our bank accounts and spent what we felt we could afford. I feel like we were reasonable about the things we included and did enough research to get a decent price. Nothing we bought was an amazing deal, but I do feel like our time is worth something.

    And sometimes, it’s just a lot easier to hire someone than to do it yourself. I had grand plans to make a homemade photobooth because I was DETERMINED to have one, and it probably would have been cheaper, but the cost difference, for me, wasn’t significant enough to deal with all the stress of the logistics of a homemade booth, not to mention all the work. At the same time we had fun DITing the paper goods and decorations. I felt like we had a good balance of DIT and just sucking it up and paying someone else to do it.

    The biggest challenge was the size of our guest list. His mom has 9 siblings and his dad has 5. My family isn’t small, either because I have 2 dads = three separate families. We couldn’t bear to cut anyone out, so I think we sent invitations to nearly 500 people. We knew a bunch of them wouldn’t come because we didn’t get married in either of our hometowns, but right in the middle, where we live.

    We had our reception in a hotel ballroom and I would have loved to have it somewhere more original and beautiful, but we need a space to fit at least 250 (we ended up with 236, but we had no way to predict that and we invited SO many people). We were also concerned with making our small-town family members do a bunch of “city driving” (especially after drinking) and decided we were either going to provide a shuttle service or have the reception at a reasonably priced hotel where they would feel comfortable staying. The hotel won.

    We weren’t planning on any parental contributions, but at the last minute our parents ended up giving us about $8,000, total, so that was an amazing help.

    Overall, I’m content with what we spent. $19,000 is a TON of money to us, but we aren’t in debt because of our wedding and threw a kickass party for ALL of the people we love.

  133. meg — thank you so much for opening this conversation. I’m no stranger to event-planning (I run several small professional conferences per year), and have assisted friends on various aspects of their own d-i-y weddings, from flower arranging to photography to coordinating the entire event (as an introvert, it’s much more appealing to help in this way than act as bridesmaid). since beginning to plan my own wedding (april, 2011!), the “wedding upcharge” has sickened me to the point that I’ve entirely abandoned referencing our event by the term “wedding” (it’s now called “that-party-where-we-might-also-happen-to-get-married’). there won’t be a big cake. nor bouquet toss. both absolutely fine by me.

    because my family has been seriously affected by the economic downturn, we’re attempting to squeeze a casual downtown bbq-dinner-event into the confines of $6 grand, which my fiancee and I will pay ourselves. that means no band … no dj, even. we live in a mid-sized (pop. 800,000) central texas city, which has a bustling night-life culture. the average saturday night wedding *venue* costs $3 to $4 thousand, most of which do not provide tables/chairs. municipal venues start at $1k, but reservations are given through a lottery process. so far, we’ve only had negative experiences with caterers, attempting to inflate services based on their own expectations what *our* wedding should be. I’m not certain how many more times we can say that we don’t. give a shit. about. appetizers. … period.

    surely the planning process will become fun at some point, but so far it’s been frustrating at best. so again, sincerest thanks to all of you ladies for attacking the sensitive topic of budgeting. it may make people squidgy discussing it, but we truly *must* shine a little light on it for anything in the exploitative, bullshit wedding industry to change.

    ~deflated but not defeated

  134. When we first sat down and thought about what we wanted to do (originally a destination wedding in Sedona, AZ), we gave ourselves a budget of $18K. A few months into the planning, we knew that wasn’t going to work and the stress of planning an event hundreds of miles away from where we live really got to me. So, we scrapped Sedona, and decided on a San Diego, CA wedding for 100 people and a budget of $25,000.

    We had no financial support from anyone; paid for everything ourselves. A long engagement allowed us time to save and we had zero wedding debt when all was said & done.

    Total amount spent (The ENTIRE shootin’ match including rings & honeymoon): $30,000
    Location: San Diego, CA at a waterfront hotel. Weddings in SoCal are pricey.
    # of guests – 62 attended (+ 6 wedding elves)

    Budget break down:
    – Hotel Suite, Venue, Catering, 3hrs hosted bar, Day-after brunch (same vendor) – $11,500
    – Chiavari Chairs – $350
    – Photographer – $4300
    – Videographer – $1500
    – Month-of Coordinator $450
    – DJ / uplights (was totally awesome) – $1800
    – Cupcakes – $220
    – Custom pipe & drape in ballroom (GIFT from colleague)
    – Wedding bands – $1000
    – Invitations, save the dates, thank u cards, postage – $550
    – Place cards, Table Cards, Gift Card Case – DIY / $35
    – Dress #1 (mistake – uggghhh) $1375
    – Dress #2 + Alterations (LOVED my 2nd dress. So worth it) $800
    – Best Lady’s Dress (J.Crew) $180
    – Flowers (some from florist who sucked, rest were DIY from grocery store) $1100
    – Officiant $250
    – Beautifying (me + my best lady) $450
    – Groom’s Suit (on sale!) $100
    – Friday Rehearsal / Welcome Dinner for 28 people (Mexcian food) $400
    – Pizza dinner & beers with guests that arrived on Thursday $80
    – Honeymoon (Luxury all-inclusive resort for one week) $3200
    – Covered travel expenses for hubby’s family/Used frequent flier miles.
    – Tips / Small gifts for family & attendants / Misc. Decor Items $375

    Biggest challenge: GUILT. Honestly, I sometimes want to barf when I think about what we spent. We spent effing PLENTY. And then I have moments when I think “Wow – those 4 days were the BEST. EVER. Totally worth it!” We chose to have a long engagement and saved for three years because we wanted a fancy wedding with filet mignon, a hosted bar, DJ, and an evening party at a swank place… and all our friends there to enjoy and celebrate with us. We also didn’t want the stress of watching every. single. dollar. Sure, we kept ourselves in check with the money we *did* spend – but we didn’t sweat it too much because we had it to spend. And then there were areas that were “oopsie – coulda done that WAAAY cheaper” – invitations, flowers, not buying a 2nd dress.

    But as I said, it was SO worth it. We have gorgeous photos, wonderful memories…and while there were a few things that went awry (it’s NOT a perfect day no matter what you spend), we’re happy we had the wedding the way we did.

    We’re currently in the process of buying our first home, and I said to my husband about a week ago as we were sitting at our table reviewing all the loan paperwork, “Maybe this would be easier to swallow if we’d had a courthouse wedding.” And he smiled, reached over and squeezed my hand and said, “I’d do it all the same all over again.” Whew! :-)

  135. We’re about a month out, but things are pretty set:

    ■Spending about $23,000 on wedding, +$6,000 for rings
    (My parents are chipping in $10,000 without strings, very generous of them)

    ■Tucson, Arizona (don’t think I’ve seen other West Coast posts yet??)
    Tucson’s a mid-size town with a fairly low cost-of-living, but it’s a vacation destination with expensive golf clubs and resorts — can make venues more expensive.

    ■~130 people

    ■Break-down of a few major expenses:
    Pre-marital counseling (= awesome!): $600
    Invitations: $450 for 150
    Dress: $1,000 including alterations
    Photographer: $2,900
    Ceremony Venue: $700 including church fee, pianist, staff
    Reception Venue: will probably be about $10,000 in total including 20% service charge
    Base fee: $1,000
    Appetizers: $500
    Dinner: $4,500
    Champagne Toast: $400
    Alcohol: $1,100 for limited bar
    DJ: $1,200

    ■My biggest CHALLENGE has been: Meg mentioned in her earlier “What I Learned About Money” post, that sometimes it’s ok to “throw money at the problem to make it go away”. I TOTALLY AGREE! Full price is sometimes totally worth your time and sanity. We have done this some. But each time it’s been hard and stressful to decide “am I at my breaking point??” Most of those decisions I haven’t felt guilty about, but there have been a few things I’ve ended up returning.

    ■How you feel about your budget: Pretty good! We talked about our budgeting very openly early on and that really helped set the tone for our decisions. I did read a bit of budgeting advice recently that I wish I would have seen earlier — figure out what you can afford to spend, and then cut 10%. That’s your cushion. I think doing that would have helped me feel less worried about those “should I pay full-price right now??” moments.

    1. Lol, right as I was writing this, the rest of the West Coast started posting! :) Hi guys!

      So I just realized that the formating on my post turned out a little funny. The items under reception venue were supposed to indent — they are included in that $10,000 reception total — just pulling out a few numbers for perspective (I realize it does not add up to $10k). The DJ was a separate expense.

      The $23k total does NOT include honeymoon, but includes EVERYTHING for the wedding day including thank you gifts, etc.

  136. Our wedding is three weeks from tomorrow, so unless disaster strikes (like it almost did yesterday when our contact at the restaurant where we’re having our reception “couldn’t find” my paperwork!!) our budget is set at this point.

    We live in the Sacramento CA area, but we’re getting married in Winters, CA – it’s a little agricultural town about 45 minutes away. About 40 guests. Sacramento itself has rather expensive weddings, especially in the downtown area, but it’s certainly not as expensive as, say, New York or San Francisco.


    Ceremony location: $50 (public park)
    Chair Rental for ceremony: $180
    Officient: $400
    Photographer: $1200 (for four hours)
    Flowers: somewhere around $250
    My dress: $550 (bought at David’s because I hate shopping; also, I love the dress)
    Alterations: $143 (this is for taking in the top and the jacket that goes with the dress; it’s tea-length so it didn’t need to be hemmed, which I’m sure saved me a lot of $$)
    Shoes: $70 (but I can totally wear them again!)
    Industrial strength boob holder: $120 (I’m a 36G, so this was necessary)
    Hair flowers: $15 (bought off etsy)
    Hair stylist: $145 – this included a dry run, plus the style the day of
    Makeup- doing myself
    Manicure, pedicure – $60, but it’s a gift from my mom
    Husband’s full dress kilt: $1200 (this includes kilt, shirt, jacket, vest, socks, shoes – the whole deal – and he plans to wear it again as often as he can)
    Reception site fee (restaurant): $400
    Food and Beverage (sangria!): about $3000 (reception is at a locally well known steak house; options are sirloin, chicken, or grilled salmon, plus appetizers, salad, veggies, etc)
    Cake: $183
    Cake delivery fee: $100
    Invitations: $183 (ordered from Etsy)
    Postage: $30
    Cardstock and rubber stamp for place cards: $60
    Photo Mat Guestbook: $15
    Marriage license: $82
    Thank you notes: $15 (from Target)
    Honeymoon: $1000 for a week at a B&B on the coast; food costs will be extra, but we take a yearly vacation anyway, and we can drive to the cost so no airfare is involved
    Rings: $2000 (this includes my engagement ring, my wedding band, and his wedding band)

    Total: $11,400. To me, this makes my frugal heart quake. In fact, part of me really wishes that I hadn’t added it all up! The money came from a few different places – my parents are giving us $3000, we each bought each other’s rings, and the kilt money came from our savings. The rest is being paid for by me – about 10 years ago, I received a inheritance from a relative who had passed on. I mentally earmarked the money as “wedding money” even though I wasn’t anywhere close to getting married yet, and I put it in a CD to earn some interest. Even though that’s what it’s for, it’s hard for me to part with it. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to except for the fact that when we merged our finances, my man and I had significant savings anyway. Otherwise, we’d be doing something very different.

    Biggest Challenge? Finding a photographer and an officient that we both liked and that we could afford. Initially, my budget for a wedding photographer was $600. Then I saw what I could get for that amount – which was basically nothing. Well, there were some people out there who charged that for wedding photography, but their “portfolios” looked my family’s snapshot albums. We lucked out and found someone who I think is super talented. When we booked her, she only had four weddings in her portfolio, but I really like her work. We can only afford four hours (since that’s already double my initial budget!), but I thought that fewer high quality photos will make me happier than lots of crappy shots.

    We had a hard time finding an officient, also. I contacted two individuals in my initial budget range. One stood us up when we were to meet for our initial consultation; the other emailed me all about his gastrointestinal issues and told me that I’d have to remind him of our consultation appointment!! Needless to say, I cancelled that and told him we would no longer need to meet with him, at which point he asked if I was going to be using the DJ he recommended in his first email to me (a recommendation I never asked for, by the way, as we aren’t using a DJ). So, I contacted someone who was, again, more than I initially wanted to spend, and he’s been wonderful to work with. He even knocked $100 off his normal fee after we talked to him. So, that worked out.

    Overall, I’m happy with what we spent. We were true to what we wanted to do (outside wedding, good food) and we’re skipping the stuff that doesn’t matter to us (like dancing or having a DJ or a limo). It feels really good to be doing this in a way that makes us happy, and to do it without going into debt.

    The only thing is, I worry that some of our guests will find it “tacky” or “sad” or “cheap” because we aren’t having big ballroom/open bar shebang. This guilt is compounded by some of the astoundingly generous wedding gifts we’ve received. But, even if we had twice the money that we’re spending, I don’t think we’d do anything differently. So I just have to relax, I think, and stop comparing our wedding with others.

  137. I’m getting married in 2 weeks, so I have a pretty firm grasp on where our total costs are going to land. We budgeted $15,000 for our wedding and have spent a little over $12,000 to date. Adding up all of our remaining obligations, I expect to hit $15,000 and probably go over a smidgen. We did not include our rings or our honeymoon in or budget. If you add those in, we will probably be around $24,000.

    I live in the Inland Empire (for those of you not in the know, that’s the vast suburban area that lies to the east of Los Angeles), and am getting married in a small mountain town that is about a half hour from where I live but a good hour and a half to two hours from L.A.. Being in Southern California, I’d still call it an expensive area, but getting married in the mountains and living to the east of Los Angeles is definitely much more affordable than living and getting married in L.A. proper or the more coastal areas.

    We have 80 guests attending our wedding.

    Our biggest expense was our venue. We paid $4341 to rent a lodge that sleeps 20 people for two nights. We’ll check in Friday afternoon and have 24 hours to rehearse, set up, etc. before our Saturday afternoon wedding, then we can party all night long, so long as we check out by 10 a.m. on Sunday. I knew I wanted a venue that gave us this kind of flexibility because of how much it would alleviate the stress the day of the wedding, and was willing to pay for it.

    Other major costs will be the catering (haven’t paid for it yet, but will spend $2500-ish). We’re having BBQ from a well-known local BBQ restaurant, and we went for their $22/person option. We also bought suits, shirts, ties and shoes for all of the men in the wedding and that ran us $2600. It was really important to my fiance that we do this. Our photographer was a steal at $1200 for a mid-size package. She was a newbie when we booked her and her prices have doubled since then.

    My dress was $800, and we spend roughly the same amount on some patio furniture to create a lounge area near the dance floor. We’ll sell most of it to recoup that cost though. We are only spending $300 for flowers (and yes, we are using a florist), and are just using our laptop for music. We spent $500 on a pair of pearl and diamond earrings that I fell in love with.

    My biggest challenge so far was recognizing that our budget was just a guideline and no one was going to get mad at me or think less of me if we go over budget. Honestly, we can afford to thrown a much more expensive wedding than what we are throwing. Conversely, it was also challenging when we would tell people who know how well-off we are that we weren’t doing something because of it was too much money, or we didn’t think it was worth the cost, and feel like we were being silently judged as being cheap. Whether this silent judgment was real or just perceived, I’ll never know.

    I am actually very comfortable with out budget, but it took me a while to get there. I wanted to keep it at $10,000 to $12,000. But at some point I realized that if I was going to spend a lot of money on the wedding, I’d rather spend a little more and get the wedding I really want than save a few thousand and feel like I was missing out on a few things.

  138. I am going to be really honest here and say I have no idea how close to our budget we got. I’m sure we over spent, but no idea how much and where. It has been 4 months since our actual wedding and 1 month from our home reception. We both like knowing where our money has gone (we keep all our receipts), but I’m not brave enough to face this yet. I know what we spent on the big stuff – the stuff with contracts. No idea on the little stuff.


    Wedding 1: Hawaii/ 22 adults & 3 kids
    We budgeted about $15,000 to include the ceremony, luau reception and 2 week trip.
    Ceremony – $900 (including coordinator and minister) – located on a private garden on a golf course
    Luau reception – $2,500 (including $300 tip for our server) – big luau with lots of other people
    Bus Rental – $600 (including $100 tip for our driver) – we rented a yellow school bus
    Photography – $800 (included cd of photos) – great photographer, 3 hour coverage incl. ceremony, no prints
    Condo rental 1/ Maui – $600 – we opted out of staying in big hotels for small private owned condos.
    Condo rental / Oahu – $1,200
    Car rental – $350
    Inter-island flight – $100
    Flight to & from home – $1,100
    Stationary – $150
    Dress – $2,200 – J. Crew
    Suit – $500 – Kenneth Cole
    Accessories (including shoes) – $300
    Rings – $700 – etsy
    Make-up (bought and done myself) – $100
    Nails – $50
    Parasols & fans – $150
    Wedding party gifts – $300
    Kayak/ snorkel trip – $150 (including tips)
    Beach trips/ snorkel rentals/ museums – $250
    Total actual cost: $13,000
    Costs I don’t know about: Food, eating out, shopping, and other transportation. I’m sure those costs equal the other $3,000 since I like to shop a lot and we don’t eat cheap or avoid alcohol. Our parents paid for a night out pre-wedding and our rehearsal luncheon.

    Wedding 2: Big city in Canada/ approx. 100 people.

    We budgeted about $3,000 for this casual home reception held at a community hall.

    Hall – $600 – small community hall which included tables and chairs
    Insurance/ license – $200
    Staff – $300 – a good investment, if you get the right people
    Stationary – $100
    Favors – $150 – macadamia herseys kisses (we bought them at Costco in Hawaii)
    Décor – $500 – I have problems guessing this since I bought things over a period of time
    Food/ plates/ etc – $600 – We did a lot of Costco shopping. We self-catered. My mom & aunts made cupcakes. My dad did luau pork – which we didn’t pay for.
    Alcohol/ drinks – $1000 – $500 on a margarita machine, $200 on a keg, the rest on bottled booze.
    Dress – $50 – I picked it up on sale and borrowed my Aunt’s necklace.
    Total actual costs – $3,500
    Costs I’m not sure about: Actual food or décor, coffee bought for helpers, etc.

    My guess is that total we spend about $23,000 for 2 weddings and one honeymoon.

    1. Biggest challenges with HI wedding:
      -Not knowing what anything would be like in Hawaii
      -Not liking to talk about money/ deal with $ with husband and family
      -Saving a lot of money in a short period of time
      -I’m really independent and a bit of a control-freak, I had a hard time asking for help
      -Not knowing what to pack or buy there
      -Having families who weren’t emotionally or just physically available

      -Fairly affordable for an Hawaiian wedding and a 2 week holiday.
      -Renting the condo in Maui from Canadians who gave us a discount and had a fully stocked kitchen.
      -Asking for possible discounts – AND getting them.
      -Amazing vendors. We even got great advice from vendors we didn’t use!
      -This wedding was actually fairly low-stress. Once we were in Hawaii, everything just fell into place and we had a really amazing time.
      -We both had a really awesome time hanging out with our family and friends.

      Biggest challenges with home reception:
      -EVERYTHING! Ha ha ha…pretty close.
      -Unavailable help
      -Issues with in-laws being unavailable.
      -Staff who made big mistakes with serving canned beer when we had a full keg, etc
      -Getting $100 taken off of damage deposit – for something we didn’t know we had to do.
      -DIY projects not getting done.
      -People not RSVPing/ people we thought would be there not making it
      -Figuring out how much food was needed – we threw out a ton of food
      -No photographer = no pictures
      -Having to do set-up and tear-down on the same day
      -Having to worry about food prep and serving
      -Making sacrifices where I normally wouldn’t have
      -Not paying attention to budget
      -Planning a move for right after party

      -having an amazing team who did help with cooking, set-up, tear down, making tablecloths, etc.
      -decor – it looked amazing
      -music – we borrowed external hard drives of music from D’s cousin and my brother so we didn’t have to download too much music. Our playlists were so much fun.
      -food. We had too much, but it was delicious. Comment about the pork my dad prepared – “this is the best pork I have ever had.” Question about the cupcakes – “which shop did you get these from? I have never had such delicious cupcakes.”
      -our outfits. I bought a new dress on sale that was perfect. D wore things he already had.

  139. OK, here goes:

    1) In total we spent about 23K which was under what we had saved and budgeted. My parents contributed half and my husband and I paid for the other half. His parents paid for our rehearsal dinner and gave us a generous gift.
    2) We were married in small mountain town in Colorado that was a destination wedding for most, meaning none of us live in that town but most of my family lives close. We live in LA so we planned long distance.
    3) We have 90 people including ourselves, but started with a 200 person guest list.
    4) Half our budget went to the venue and food/drink. We paid $3K for our photographers, $1200 for my dress including alterations, $1K for flowers, $1K for our DJ, $700 for our cake, $700 for all paper products, $300 on gifts for participants, my husband wore his own tux but we spent about $100 on a new shirt, tie, socks for him and rented nicer, shinier shoes, and $525 for our wedding bands. That’s the big stuff. We actually came in under our initial budget because so many people didn’t travel for our wedding, so we were able to add in a candy bar and a DIT photobooth which cost us another $1K but only because we splurged on a really nice, expensive camera that we wanted and used it for the photobooth. Of course now have an amazing camera we love. We also were able to pay for hotel rooms for some of our family, host a spontaneous BBQ our first night in town and just generally relax because we had saved and saved and our “extra” money was used to do fun things and enhance our experience.

    5. The hardest thing initially was deciding how big a wedding to have. I wanted to elope, he wanted a big wedding. We met in the middle (eventually). We agreed to not go into debt for the wedding so hashing out how to save the money we needed was challenging and it was a frugal year, but we accomplished our goals.

    6. Overall I feel good about how much we spent and the wedding we had. It was an amazing weekend and I wouldn’t trade the experience and memories for anything. BUT, some days, when we are talking about our future and I think about the money that we saved and then spent, I cringe. Again, no real regrets and I would do it again, but man, there are so many other ways to spend that much cash! But I am proud of how we worked together to save the money we needed and I am proud of how we chose to spend it. We spent on things that were important to us and saved where we could. We had an amazing experience and had a great weekend surrounded by our friends and family and so much love and you really can’t put a price tag on that.

  140. Maybe I missed this in reading the comments, but can someone post a budget for a same-sex wedding? We haven’t set our budget yet, but it will look a little different since we’ll have 2 wedding dresses, two women’s wedding bands (I have no idea what men’s bands cost, but there might be differences??), etc. We live in NYC so I know it will be pricey, but I’d be happy to see anyone’s budget for a same-sex wedding and hear whether anything was a lot more/a lot less than for a opposite-sex couple. Thanks in advance!

    1. I’m sorry … it’s not the first comment anymore. Silly multiple pages!

      Here’s the text, and a link … which is working FOR NOW:


      Anon writes:

      We plan to spend $30,000 and we are just a smidge under budget right now. Our parents are sharing most of the cost 50/50, and we have been saving for some things ourselves. All wedding expenses are being paid for in cash. We are getting married in downtown Baltimore, MD. There will be 100 to 120 guests. Half the budget is going toward food and drinks. The other 15K is being spent as follows: $4,000 on two dresses for two brides, $4,000 on a band, $4,000 on the venue, $1,300 on Flowers, and the rest is being spent on the misc. extras. Note: we won a photography contest and are only paying for our photographer’s travel. The biggest challenge was getting over spending so much. It is way more than we were initially comfortable with, but we are spending it on great vendors. Ultimately, spending the money on independent and local businesses that support marriage equality helped us come around. For example, our dresses are sweat shop free, and made by awesome, independent designers. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t cringe when I think of how much money is being spent.

      September 17, 2010 8:37 am

      1. My budget numbers on the first page are for a same sex wedding. My wife wore a suit, but it was more expensive than my dress, so I guess that didn’t really effect our budgeting much.

    2. Men’s bands are definitely less pricey, but… I actually special ordered a teeny men’s band sized for my lady hand, and it suits me much better than the bling they put on women’s bands.

  141. I feel like I have to rep’ for the tiny budgets out there even though I’m not post-wedding.

    ■Budget is roughly $4,000
    ■We live in NYC but are having the wedding at “home” – midatlantic state about an hour outside of major city, where we both grew up.
    ■We’re inviting about 60 and because it is just super close family and super close friends we expect all to come
    ■Venue: free, family member’s backyard
    tables/chairs: borrowed from family member’s job
    dress: $250 off ebay, alterations done by grandmom, jewelry was already owned or borrowed
    suit: $90 from overstock
    DJ: using ipod and brother’s speakers
    invites: DIT, roughly $300
    Flowers: ordering online + farmer’s market $250
    cake: gmom making
    food: DIT! We’re doing 2-3 lasagna/casserole dishes with salads, rolls, and veggie trays, roughly $600
    alcohol: $300, beer, wine and punch
    tent: $560
    randoms: ikea tablecloths for tables linens, DIT decorations, salon, etc. $500
    rings: $250
    honeymoon: whatever is left over ;)
    ■My biggest challenge through our entire engagement has been justifying spending ANYTHING on the wedding. His parents are out of the picture, mine are unemployed/struggling financially so we are footing the entire cost – two part-time students with crap full time jobs. We considered eloping or doing it JOP style countless times but the sentimentalist in me has won over.

    1. My dear, you’re far from being the smallest wedding on the thread. We’re going from about $1K to about $60K. And hooray for diversity.

  142. Thank you so much for posting this thread. My wedding is still 11 months away. It is so refreshing to see what things actually cost. Thank you Meg!!! I love your blog.

  143. LOVING this post! What great perspective to have such a variety of break-downs from a variety of locations!

    And it’s sooooooooo hitting home that wedding are not apples to apples — It amazes me what variety in cost there is even in similar locations! Or similar totals, but you can see that people splurged in VASTLY different areas.

    Meg, cheers on getting the convo started. It’s so great to talk specifics when most discussions I’ve heard have been generalities (just totals and by region). I feel much more content with our wedding spending being unique and not just a general statistic.

  144. We’re 3 weeks out and have spent WAY TOO MUCH for us. I had no idea. If we weren’t so close, I’d probably say “eff it” and elope. We’re at a point now where we don’t know where the rest of the $ will come from. Not good.

    Originally: thought about $6000, it’s rounding out around $12K now.

    60 people invited, expect 40 people, small town.

    Right now, it looks like:
    Invites – $500 (postage, shipping on materials, etc)
    Venue – we’re getting married on property we own, but that needs work. Some family is working for free, but others are getting paid. It’s about $4000 just to fix that up – but it’s work that had to be done anyway in the long run. I’m trying to think of this as an investment but it’s making me grumpy right now.
    Dress – $650 for fabric, patterns, findings (it’s really nice fabric.)
    Suit – $160, vintage
    Shoes – $200
    Resizing family engagement ring – $430
    Flights to wedding – $540
    Passport, express – $240
    Honeymoon flights – $1050
    Honeymoon hotels – $1400
    Hotels for helpers – $500
    Rental cars for wedding, honeymoon, and helpers – $650
    Groceries (food prep labor donated) and alcohol – $2500
    Decor – $500
    Portapotty – $120

    There’s a bunch of other unknowns – marriage license, rings, photography, socks, tie, flowers, bartender, random crap – will have a better idea afterward, I imagine. Or I’ll have thrown my computer & spreadsheets out a window. Seriously, I had NO idea that a “DIY” wedding would cost so much. None. It’s insane.

  145. * ~$5,000
    * Southern California
    * 35 people
    * Food (“reception” and BBQ the day before) = $2,200
    Clothes (both of us) = $380
    Ceremony (venue, chair rentals, decorations) = $200
    Photographer = $550
    Stationary = $375
    Charitable donations = $150
    * Our biggest challenge was finding vendors (the few we used) that we liked and that were in budget). Also deciding what was important and what we wanted.
    * We’re not post-wedding, but it’s only a month away so I think we’re pretty set. There are no more planned expenses. $5,000 is a lot of money, we probably could have done it for even less, like if we cut out the BBQ the day before we would have saved $800. And if I decided not to get letterpress announcements we’d save another $400. Everything could be done cheaper. But we decided on $5,000 and have stuck to it well. There are a handful of things we hope to sell after the wedding too.

  146. I still have 7 months to go, plenty of time for some budget surprises, but I had to comment:
    – Planning to spend $18-20k, not including the honeymoon
    – San Francisco – expensive!
    – about 100 people
    – Food & drink – $12.5k, estimating
    Ceremony Venue – $1300
    Reception Venue – $1k
    The other expenses are pretty small, but add up to the rest of the budget, $5k.
    – The biggest challenge for us was finding a venue the right size (not huge), that was easy to work with, and that I wouldn’t have to decorate. I did not want to have to worry about working with a ton of different vendors. We are probably paying a bit of a premium for this, but it seems worth it to me. I love how it looks (on blogs) when people go all out with lanterns and flowers everywhere and Christmas lights and clever themes. . .but it’s just not me. Maybe for my daughter’s wedding! ;)
    -We are still very very pre-wedding, but as of now I am fine with our budget. I would have liked to spend less (of course!) but this is still an amount that we can afford and doesn’t make me feel ill. And although our parents have generously offered to contribute, the fact that we are planning an event that we can pay for ourselves takes a ton of pressure off the situation. I have read too many horror stories about parents offering to contribute $X, so the couple plans a wedding based on that figure, and then their parents are unable to contribute in the end.

  147. My biggest challenge was accepting help. My parents have always been on the poorer side (not poor exactly, but they always had to spend wisely), so I’m used to paying for everything myself. They’re a little better off these days and helped as much as they could, but his parents paid for a lot of the bigger stuff. It was hard both letting his parents help and convincing my parents that we didn’t think any less of them because they couldn’t help as much (which was true – my husband and I know that everyone did what they could and it all meant so much). Has anyone else had this problem?

    The venue was an old mill outside of Philadelphia in Delaware County. It was nice, but not super fancy by any means (exactly how I wanted it). We were able to be married in the glen outside, and then move inside for the reception.

    Anyway, here is the numbers break out. We splurged on little things that meant a lot (nice table wine – we’re from NorCal and go to Sonoma far too often so wine is important, a choreographed first dance – haha laugh it up, but I think it was worth it), and tried to skimp on things that didn’t (took out cocktail hour entirely – our families are dancers, not small talkers). Also, it was a big wedding: 175 people showed up. We hadn’t wanted to go over 150, but we both have large families and a lot of close friends. In fact, we were surprised (and touched) at how many people went very far out of their way to be there. Final note on that – I heard over and over again how 5 to 10% of your guests won’t show on the day of the wedding. Now, this is not to make anyone feel bad if that was the case (hey people/their kids get sick, things come up, it doesn’t reflect on you at all), but I wouldn’t count on it! I hadn’t allotted a seat for our assistant photographer, figuring he’d be able to sit at one of the inevitable no-show spots. Well, not only did everyone show up, but some people brought dates they hadn’t RSVPed for and a cousin came at the last minute. So we actually had more guests than seats. It all got worked out, but I felt terrible for not making sure everyone had a spot. Just a note of warning!

    Things his parents paid for:
    -food/alcohol and all the services fees that went with it – $21,000

    Things my parents paid for:
    -my dress (my mom wouldn’t let me budge on this) – $1,000 (I hadn’t intended to spend that much, but I found The One and again, mom wouldn’t let me not get it)
    -the cake – $475 (my sister met the baker at her college – girl is 24, a full-time student, and still manages to make incredible wedding cakes – anyway, we def. got a bargain on the price)
    -rehearsal dinner – $2,000 (we had it at a BYOB joint in Conshohocken so we could bring our own wines – highly recommended – not only saved some cash, but we were able to pick meaningful ones)
    -my hairdo – $80 – another meaningful splurge

    Things we paid for:
    -dance lessons – $485 (a splurge but worth it – yes, it’s a little self indulgent, but it’s a great couples activity for the pre-wedding months because you both have to learn to work together and it helps you start envisioning the big day)
    -table wine – $400 (for 4 cases – we got lucky, a winery we got to often has amazing case specials from time to time – we got a Zinfindel that is ordinarily $30/bottle for $100/case)
    -save the dates – $200 – big magnets, purple envelopes and stamps
    -invitations – $300 (including stamps – we ordered from psprint.com with 5×7″ flat invites and postcard sized RSVP cards that we had a friend design for us – cheap and meaningful!)
    -flowers – $1,300 (flowers were way more expensive than I thought they’d be – this was just for the bouquet, and 17 centerpieces made up hydrangeas and mums — I saved money by doing the cocktail table flowers myself – we used old wine bottles and other antique bottles my mom had around the house and just dropped in one iris a piece ourselves and the flower girl handed out snipped carnations to women along the aisle instead of scattering petals – those we also got at the local Acme)
    -photography – $1,750 (we have a friend who’s a professional photographer and she gave us a discount off of her usual rate even though she had to fly out all the way from California — she also did our engagement photos for $500 which turned out amazingly, so I know they’ll be worth it)
    -$300 – favors for our bridesmaids/groomsmen – we probably should have spent more on them (we had 12 total!) but we also didn’t require anyone to buy anything expensive – girls just had to wear a purple dress and guys a green shirt – the rest was up to them
    -$200 – wedding favors consisted of a donation to the Sierra Club and I put a mix online – which I noted in the program
    -$30 – programs I designed and printed myself on multi-colored cardstock
    -$370 – wedding bands – I got mine, hammered recycled gold, from Etsy for $300, husband went with the ultra cheap and lightweight (he’s not a ring guy so he didn’t want to spend too much or get anything too uncomfortable) titanium option – and it looks great!
    -$675 – DJ – our dj was awesome and came highly recommended, he also dropped $200 off the original price, but then I gave a $50 tip for a total cost of $675
    -$250 – decor – chalkboard for the menu, mason jars for the tables, 3-ft wide balloons for the ceremony, bird figurines for each table and the cake topper
    -$250 – new suit for groom, he needed one anyone – we also got a new silk tie and handkerchief for a pocket square – he looks a little like Don Draper so it worked out well

    Total figure (drumroll) – $30,165

    Part of me can’t believe we spent that much on one day, but the other part of me knows it was incredibly worth it. Firstly, based on the positive feedback we got, we know we threw one hell of a party – everyone had a blast, loved the food, even enjoyed the ceremony (it was a very non-traditional affair including Marvin Gaye, self-written vows, and a lot of impromptu happy heckling). Secondly, we will always have that day to look back on. I don’t think we could have done it without help – both my husband and I were of the mind that we weren’t going into debt for the wedding – and for that we are eternally grateful. Thirdly, as much as I would have loved to do it for cheaper, certain things just weren’t an option – we didn’t have a backyard to do it in and with our families coming from different regions, we had to pick somewhere in the middle. We live in California but the wedding was back east, so I really couldn’t do a lot of things myself that I would have liked to (flowers, food etc.). Anyway, it’s over now and I’m married to the man I love and I’m happy so f*** it! Hope all of you other post-wedding APWers feel the same way. :)

  148. # What you spent on your wedding.
    Around $8,000

    # Where you live (Big city? Small town? Expensive area? Affordable area?) Because oh, boy does that change your budget numbers.
    Midwest, Big-ish city

    # How big your wedding was.
    A little under 100 people

    # How that budget roughly broke down (How much was food? Venue? Dress?)
    Rounded estimates in some cases:
    Venue: $2,250
    Food: $2,700
    Photographer: $1,200
    DJ: $385
    Ceremony music: $350
    Officiant: $300
    Wedding Bands: $300
    Decorations: $500
    Groom’s Suit & Tailoring: $200
    Miscellaneous (Bridal party gifts, license, other odds and ends): $500

    A few things were outside of our budget and kindly funded by family, including he alcohol at the reception which was open bar (approximately $1500 spent, paid by consumption); my dress ($300 including alterations and pressing); and the family welcoming dinner (approximately $200 for around 50 people).

    # What your biggest challenge was.
    Deciding how much was “too much”. We were given a generous financial gift from family to cover the wedding, and had to weigh between what we wanted, what we “felt” we should spend, and if we wanted to use up all the money, go over, or stay under. Since we are very financially stable we really could have afforded a more lavish/expensive wedding without any duress, but it was hard to step back, think how much something meant to us to have/someone to hire and then decide.

    # How you feel about your budget post-wedding
    Good. I didn’t keep track of all little expenses, because at a certain point it was entertainment too. I felt like if I kept track of all of them it was just for my own bragging rights (me personally, not anyone else necessarily!) to say how much I’d saved and for no other purpose. Some days I think gee, $8,000 could have taken us to Austrailia. But at the same time, I’m proud of how our wedding looked, felt, echoed us as a couple and individuals, and that everyone ate good food and drank themselves silly. I don’t regret any of our spending choices and am happy we “saved” some of the money that was given to us by spending it on our honeymoon and not our wedding.

  149. Ooh, I love this!

    I was just feeling guilty that we had such an EXORBATANT wedding, compared to most APW graduates. And now I find that there are APWers in our cost-bracket, too! I feel so… absolved.

    What you spent on your wedding. – Wedding only – between $15k and $20k. Including all wedding-related expenditures (gifts for helpers, rings, honeymoon, etc) – between $23k and $25k.

    Where you live. – Vancouver, BC… a.k.a San Francisco North, in my humble opinon, as far as wedding costs and real estate prices go. BIG city. BIG wedding markups.

    How big your wedding was. – 96 people, including us.

    How that budget roughly broke down.
    – Approx. $10k for the venue, including food
    – $2k for the open bar, when all was said and done (GODDAMN, our friends can drink)
    – $2k for the photographer (because she was our friend… her packages range from $4k to $10k, so we really lucked out here)
    – $200 for invitations
    – $750 for wedding dress (a gift from my mother), $200 for alterations
    – $300 for two bridesmaid dresses (our gift to them)
    – $600 for three tuxes
    – $750 for flowers (again, we lucked out… our downstairs roomie is a floral designer, so along with doing our “personal” flowers at regular cost, she got us bulk flowers for our DIT centerpieces at wholesale prices)
    – $0 for music! My band played the ceremony and a set at the reception… then we kicked it over to DJ iPod.
    – … and I’ve lost track of the rest. Lots of miscelanious costs that I’d rather not think about.

    What your biggest challenge was. – Letting go of the super-budget, DIY, off-beat wedding of my dreams. I married a traditional guy with strong feelings about a traditional wedding, and it was his wedding too. Ironically, he did most of the DIY stuff himself… e.g. he wanted a seating chart and place cards, so he made it happen.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding – GodDAMN, that was a lot of money. If we hadn’t recieved a very unexpected, very generous cheque from some relatives — and I’m talking VERY generous — we’d be feeling a lot less positive.

    Then again… I can’t say we regret any single cost. The venue was beautiful (meaning we spent next to nothing on decorations), the food was five-star-restaurant quality (though that was a total fluke, very unexpected), the open bar made for hilarious antics.

    Also: NOBODY cared that we didn’t have favours or crazy awesome decorations. We put that money toward booze. Best. Decision. EVAR.

    1. Oh hello! That’s not exorbitant at all. That seems to be about median on APW, and roughly what we spent. In San Francisco itself. D*mn expensive city.

      1. Oh, though, you know, I never count our honeymoon… since that was a whole different big vacation we decided to go for.

  150. Budget/goal was $10,000 but over time, not going into debt, we ended up spending closer to $15,000 (not including rings)

    We eloped (cost ~ $1000 for fancy hotel/nice dinner/new dress clothes including a suit my husband needed anyways) and then had a reception in Chicago afterwards.

    Size: 100 guests
    Venue: $2500 ** We thought we weren’t going to spend more than $500 but after seeing what was out there for that price and how much we would have to rent to make it nice, we found an incredible place that was funky and fun and needed zero decorations, linens, etc. Very unique place that gave us the exact party atmosphere we wanted. It included a sound system so we didn’t have to get a dj. They did all the set up, tear down, and clean up too. Plus it needed to little added to it that I barely needed flowers…
    Flowers: $200 d.i.y. in 25 goodwill vases
    Catering: $7000 including buffet appetizers, full open bar and dessert bar
    Band: $600 for friend’s 3 piece jazz band to play for the first 2 hours
    ipod DJ: $99 for new dependable nano
    Dress: $300 vintage party gown with alterations (hubby wore new suit again)
    Photobooth: $1300 totally worth it!
    Invites: $500 **I heart Etsy!
    Open house the next day: $500 for beer/food
    Add $1000 for various tips paid, hair styled, earrings purchased but not worn, etc

    I really regret that we didn’t get a professional photographer for the reception. A very talented friend did a photoshoot for our elopement as a wedding gift. In a major miscommunication, we thought we had asked her to shoot the party too but she showed up sans camera…oops. Other friends stepped in and did what they could but sadly there are no formal shots of us, our families, or the whole group.

    My advice: spend money on what is important to you (ours was atmosphere and food/drink) and save it where you don’t care (we skipped the dj, chair covers, cake, flowers, etc). no one is ever going to miss a photobooth if they never knew it was an option. people don’t mind only having wine/beer. friday nights are a great wedding night option because you can spend the rest of the weekend with your guests. and lastly…don’t go into debt for a party that only lasts 5 hours!

  151. I’m finding it interesting to see how things compare … for example, take one wedding at $12,500 with 80 guests, and one for $15,000 with 100 guests … when you break it down, it’s nearly the same, when adjusted for the additional headcount. (Yes, I realize this is slightly faulty, as there are other expenses than just additional food/drink/etc for the additional guests, but work with me here!)

    That being said, it’s ALSO interesting to see how people with the exact same budget differ on how they allocated that money. Or didn’t. =)

    1. I think the main additional costs for additional guests are usually:
      – food/drink (usually a per person cost) and maybe pay for additional servers
      – more flowers for more tables (or whatever kind of table decoration you might have)
      – if a big guest count jump, maybe you pay for second shooters if you have a pro photographer/videographer
      – invitations (and stamps), favors, placecards, programs, and any other paper products going to each guest

  152. Ok – I’ll go. We got married last month in Brooklyn. It was really important to us to get married where we live because a) I travel a lot for work and couldn’t imagine adding more wedding planning travel into my life and b) I wanted people coming in from out of town to enjoy being in New York City, not near NYC. We chose August because hotel prices are typically lower in the late summer.

    * We spent about $32K. It was way more than I wanted, but it was still hard to pull off in such an expensive city. It involved A LOT of scrimping and saving and DIT-ing. Honestly, I hate that number because it sounds so big, but the entire time, it felt like we were working with nothing. My parents certainly helped, but we contributed as well.

    * Where you live (Big city? Small town? Expensive area? Affordable area?) Because oh, boy does that change your budget numbers – No kidding. New York. Enough said.

    * How big your wedding was – 100 people

    * How that budget roughly broke down:

    -Ceremony & Reception Venue – $12,500. This included the space all day, from 10am to 2am, a full open bar that included any booze our drubken guests desired, wines of our choice from an importer we like (important to us), water, wine and cocktail glasses, tables, chairs, linens, a DOC, a sound tech, lighting, set up, staff, cleanup, and use of a baby grand and drum kit.
    -Catering – $4500. Awesome BBQ.
    -Photography – $4000. My husband is a photographer and I think he was able to pull some strings on this front. Photography here is so expensive, but it was so worth it.
    -Flowers – $2600. I had vendors I really loved and who did such a stunning job. I know a lot of people opt to DIY flowers, but I flat out suck at them and couldn’t be happier with the decision to get professional help here.
    -Attire – $2100. This includes my dress, a custom headpiece, a gorgeous suit and vintage Hermes tie for husband, and a pair of Louboutins that I got on crazy, crazy sale. Plus – $20 blue La Perla boy shorts that made my butt look cute. Outlets, Internet, Century 21, eBay, sample sales, etc. were my friend here.
    – Cakes & Cheese – $800. We had a cheese friend cut us a deal here and worked with a bakery that didn’t up-charge for weddings.
    – Officiant – $800. We loved him. My slightly religious mother loved him and got over the fact we weren’t married in a church. This included some premarital counseling. Worth it.
    – Rings – $700. Mine – vintage. His – custom, based on a vintage form.
    – Invitations – $650. A friend and I designed them and we found a letterpress vendor who mostly does artwork (i.e. no crazy wedding markup)
    – Bamboo Plates & Utensils – $500. Rentals were so pricey. Since we went for BBQ, bamboo plates seemed like a good choice. They were also beautiful.
    – Hair & Makeup for me & Mum – $400. We went to them.
    – DJ – $300. This was a friend of ours who is a drummer and DJ around town. He did us a favor on price.
    – Gifts for Wedding Party – $1000. We had a huge wedding party. No way around it.
    – Crafting Materials/Other Random Garbage – $400. I was in shock at how much I ended up spending on all of this. It adds up, people.
    – Tips – ~$1100

    What we got for free:
    – Opera singer friend and pianist friend to do our processional.
    – Indie rock band (all friends for 10+ years) to play a set at the reception.
    – Graphic designer friend to help design invitation, create a custom pattern to line envelopes with and design programs.
    – Technology producer friend to create interactive background piece based on aforementioned pattern. It interacted with music + twitter inputs.
    – I do side work as a calligrapher. I did part of our invitations, our envelopes, custom stamps for reply card envelopes, table numbers, cocktail signs, menus, escort cards, part of the program, guest book sign, etc.

    * What your biggest challenge was.
    It was so emotionally challenging to simultaneously feel as though we were spending too much money (for us) but were totally, comparatively broke in NYC wedding terms. Finding a caterer who didn’t treat us like a bunch of worthless paupers was especially hard. I also hated dress shopping.

    * How you feel about your budget post-wedding
    I feel conflicted over it. It still feels like we spent a lot, but we did get a lot for our money. I still feel like I’m making excuses to myself, even though I know that logically, I don’t need to answer to anyone over it. Honestly, $32,000 in New York is still a tough number, but I don’t feel like I get to pat myself on the back for extreme thriftiness by any measure. Our wedding was beautiful and very us, but it sure didn’t look like the “typical” DIY affair that’s all over the blogosphere (even though we did so much ourselves). It’s hard to have your handmade event look different from nearly every other example you see out there. Having a rock band, a drunken party until 2am, tons of hand drawn signage and a weird technology installation was way more our speed. We threw a ton of stuff in the “f*ck it list” and never looked back. Ladies, embrace the f*ck it list.

  153. The total cost was about $18,500.

    Location: Outside of Kansas City

    Attendees: 108

    Budget Breakdown:
    Dress: $1300
    Alterations: $300
    Bridesmaid dress: $525
    Groom and grooms-mens’ suits: $2200
    Photographer: $880
    Favors: $3000 (custom-made bronze bells)
    Flowers: $1600 (florist)
    Centerpieces and decorations: $800 (made ourselves)
    Plates and cutlery rental: $550
    Food: $2000 (Mexican from a local restaurant)
    Cakes: $400
    Israeli folk band: $550 (includes tip)
    Guitarist: $200 (includes tip)
    Rabbi: $1100 (donation to synagogue)
    Wine: $300
    Beer: $300
    Venue: $1600
    Hair: $300 (includes tip)
    Invitations, programs, etc: $400 (designed and printed ourselves)

    Before really getting into wedding planning, we thought it was crazy that the average wedding cost more than $20,000, but by the end, we got pretty close to spending that much. But we also used our wedding as an excuse to support our friends, buy something of value for our bridesmaid and groomsmen (our sister and brothers), and spend money where it would reduce our stress level. The result was we spent a LOT on favors because we had our friend cast custom-made bronze bells, paid for the plane tickets for our friend and his family to fly up and photograph our wedding, paid for both the supplies and time and effort for my sister-in-law to make the cakes, bought a high-end dress (instead of making her buy a dress she would never wear again) for my sister the bridesmaid, and bought (instead of making them rent) designer suits for the groom and grooms-men. All that easily could have saved us $5,000, but it was more important to support our friends and/or give them something they could use than save money.

    We were planning the wedding from a different country as well, so there are a lot of things we could of spent less money on, but it just wasn’t worth the effort, and we value our time. I spent a lot more on my dress than I wanted to, but I was running out of time, SICK of looking at dresses, and was just happy to find something I liked. Because I flew in 2 weeks before the wedding, all the alterations had to be done quickly, meaning more $$$.

    Our wedding was such an amazing, glorious time with all our friends and family, and we don’t regret a penny.

  154. – $30,000, split equally between us, my parents and my husband’s parents.

    – Boston

    – 110 people

    – About $15,000 went to food and drink, with another $5,000 for the venues, $2,000 for photography, $2,000 for dress and alterations, $1700 for flowers, $1300 for rehearsal dinner, $625 for cake, $500 for speakers and a college kid to DJ, plus everything else that adds up (bridal party gifts, our wedding night hotel, hair and makeup, transportation etc etc etc).

    – I agree with a lot of previous posters who have talked about the challenge of finding a budget that works for both them and their families. I had a really hard time at first accepting that if we wanted to have a sit-down open-bar dinner on a Saturday in Boston, we could not do it for $15,000. After that, my mom and I didn’t see eye to eye about where to spend the money – her philosophy was to throw money at problems, and I preferred to look for ways to rein in costs.

    – Honestly, I still think $30,000 is an obscene amount of money to spend on one day. That said, I loved every second of our wedding and I don’t regret spending it. The food was phenomenal, the venue was gorgeous, and the overwhelming feeling of looking out at all our loved ones is one I’ve tucked away in my heart to keep forever.

  155. $15000 ($2000 from groom’s parents, $1500 from bride’s plus dress, $11000 us)
    Lived in Atlanta at the time, married in Madison, WI (pop ~ 250,000)
    180 invited, 140 present

    6800 – Catering (incl service, all local and organic food, cake, tax and tip)
    1870 – Music (1700 band for 3 hours, 170 ceremony guitar – both incl tip)
    1055 – Photography (no prints, 7 hrs time, DVD with high res images but no retouching, incl tax)
    1000 – beer, wine, champagne with TONS leftover. For some reason, this is really hard to truly estimate. Only thing we ran out of was white wine – because everyone we thought was a red wine only person chose the white due to the warm day/nice clothes. I’d heard about this, but I didn’t think it’d be true for my guests….oops.
    750 – Flowers (Farmer’s market, ~1000 stems, 2 bouquets, 4 corsages, 7 bouts, we arranged centerpieces and altar arrangements)
    500 – Dress – mom made, but a guess
    475 – Venue (ceremony and reception in city park, incl tables and chairs)
    450 – non alcoholic drinks (limonata’s before ceremony, sparkling lemonade, iced tea on tables)
    350 – Hotel and gift for maid of honor
    300 – tablecloths and napkins
    350- my shoes, hairpiece, getting hair, makeup, and toes done, jewelry (not rings) (mani and massage a gift from friends/MOH)
    275 – Suit, shirt, shoes, tie, socks
    250 – invitations, save the dates, thank yous paper
    170 – extra decor (balloons (and the helium) and streamer things for the windows, signs, extension cords, etc.)
    150 – lighting (cafe lights and paper lanterns)
    120 – postage for save the dates, invites, thank yous
    50 – plates, silverware, wine glasses, beer glasses, water glasses (initial cost ~350, sold on CL for 300 post-wedding to another bride at same venue)
    50 – bathroom basket and stuff inside it – not worth it

    Not included in total:
    1500 – engagement ring (band/setting of CL, sapphire from Wild Fish gems)
    1000 – wedding bands (platinum – off eBay)
    6500 – honeymoon to Turkey and Egypt for 4 weeks (done 9 months post-wedding)
    600 – mini-moon
    375 – Flights to wedding
    140 – Hotel post-wedding
    ??? – Rehearsal dinner – groom’s parents paid

    FWIW: We had zero savings post-wedding. I know that seems stupid, but we are on the same page with our financial views and we have always been quite frugal with our monthly living costs. Suze Orman would have a heart attack, but we know ourselves and our situation and we try our hardest to not be naïve…and it is all working out just fine.

    planning from far away, getting things to the wedding (from my parent’s place in MN, from our place in ATL), saving money on poverty budgets, self-coordinating and me being a control freak

    I loved our wedding, but I still stress over just how much the cake ended up costing (1400!!!) and how much I piled on myself leading up to the wedding and morning of, and the cleanup (dishes!) afterwards. I was able to let go and have a blast at the wedding (and that is the thing my husband is most proud of me for), but the before and after were A LOT of work. A lot of my feelings of sadness surrounding the wedding are over things that could not be changed (we were in school, living far away from the wedding site which just made the logistics much more difficult, 80% of guests were out of town, etc.). However, I feel great that we were able to support local people – especially with the food and flowers. It was a lot of money, but completely in-line with who we are, which is comforting to me when I am dwelling on the other crap. Loved this exercise and seeing numbers of other PRACTICAL people is quite therapeutic.

  156. I’m in the upper Midwest with the wedding in a city that has some major economic issues- much of the city lives below the poverty line and the surrounding areas are more wealthy :-( We’re happy to be contributing to the economy and local businesses with our wedding!!

    Wedding is next month, but all of our deposits have been made! 160 will be there and grand total, roughly $23,000. We are SO fortunate that my future in-laws contributed $11,000 and are covering the rehearsal dinner. My dad contributed $3,600. My mom bought my dress ($850 – off the rack) and made my amazing veil. We covered the other expenses (about $8,400). We could not have had the wedding we’re having without our family’s contributions.

    Breakdown of major items:
    Reception (includes seated dinner for 160, room rental, ceremony site rental (same venue), ceremony chairs, open bar): $14,000
    Photography: $1,750
    Flowers/decor: $1,400
    Officiant: $425
    DJ (doing ceremony music also, and lighting): $870
    Rings: $1,800
    Stationery: $740 (more than budgeted, but my fiance was really excited about certain invites, so we went with those.)
    Dress alterations: $415 (I was shocked! – almost 50% cost of dress!)
    Hair/make-up: $225
    Hotel for the night before and of wedding: $300
    Valet parking: $400 (estimate – based on # of cars)
    Cake: $550
    Attendant gifts: $300

    Other odds and ends were paid for, like my shoes, earrings, and a rubber stamp!

    This total doesn’t include our honeymoon (we’re paying for) or the rehearsal dinner (in-laws paying for).

    Minor money savers were making our own place cards and guest book, I made my hair piece from some glam earrings of my Grandma’s, my mom made my veil. My fiance’s tux rental is free because of the other guys’ rentals.

    There haven’t been many challenges, but certain things have mattered to my fiance more than me, and vice versa. (e.g., accent lighting for the reception). So, we’ve talked those out, but they haven’t been major issues.

    1. Actually, a challenge was taming the guest list. Both sets of parents were uber excited for our wedding and wanted to invite boat loads of people (185 invited is a boat load in my mind… I envisioned a quaint 50). So, that was a major challenge.

  157. I just remembered two more things for my wedding, alcohol (a house wine choice) $150 and wedding rings (not engagement) $500, That bumps me up above $11,000 I think, again, NOT including honeymoon or engagement ring.

  158. GREAT idea, Meg. Yay for being brave. And I’m so doing this. But it may take me a few days to find the time. But I’m excited about it.

  159. I’m not sure what the exact number was, but our wedding came in at right around $2,000, all together. I live in a very small city (about 50k people I think) in a rural state. Overall, it’s a pretty inexpensive area. The wedding bigger than we had intended, but still pretty small, just over 100 people.

    The budget breakdown was something like this:
    Rings (off Etsy) $150
    Dress $400 (more than I intended, but the dress, OMG, it was perfect!)
    Accessories (jewelry, shoes, wrap all that I still wear pretty often) – $125
    Wedding prep (make-up, hair, waxing) $120
    License – $45
    Favors – $100
    Flowers – $75
    Photographer – $250
    Groom’s clothing – $100
    Cake- $50
    Food – $200

    Dinner was a pot-luck, the venue was free, and a dear friend who is also a JP married us, all of which dropped our costs significantly. I designed out invitations, and my boss let me print them at work for free.

    I think our biggest challenge was keeping the wedding itself small, which kept the budget low. Our parents really wanted us to invite all of our families, which included people neither of us have ever met. We actually used the budget as an excuse to keep the wedding at a level that was right for us.

  160. I know you said not to post til after the wedding, but a drastic and interesting change just happened to my wedding 6 weeks out. And everything’s already been paid for pretty much anyway…

    * Our budget is $13,000
    * Fort Lauderdale, FL
    * 50 people
    * Food: $3500 (the venue is paid by the food, its the restaurant – or was)
    – Photographer: $2300
    – My Dress: $800
    – Centerpieces: $130
    – Flowers: $200
    – DJ: $700
    – Decorations: $100
    – Chairs, ceremony decor/music: $300
    – My aunt is making a small cake and cupcakes
    – Chairs, plain linens, cocktail tables, bar service, ceremony coordinator, rooms are all being generously provided at no cost by the hotel.

    * My biggest challenge actually came very recently. Its 6 weeks out and my venue, a seafood restaurant right on the beach contacted me to let me know their planned renovations will not be done in time for my wedding to take place. Panic ensues, but the banquet manager assures me the restaurant has made arrangements for an alternate location. There was a reason I chose the restaurant – its was cheaper than anything else in the area for a beach wedding/reception venue, and it was pre-decorated. The restaurant is all nautical themed with wood floors and the banquet room has flowers and so on. Our wedding budget was no problem with this arrangement, since the amount of people was very limited. The new arrangement is at a resort a few miles down the beach. As of the move, several new things have been added to a budget. I am grateful for what I have been provided at the same price by the (much, much more expensive) hotel – but I went from a nicely decorated, themed room to a 1700 Sq ft big, white tent.

    Table linens, decorations for the ceiling (at least paper lanterns are cheapish), and the mind-numbing task of trying to get everything to match. None of this is helped by the hotel event coordinator feeling the need to constantly remind me that just the tent (not the veranda or beach) costs more than my entire wedding budget to rent (the former restaurant arranged the same pricing I was going to pay them, at the new venue).

    Needless to say it has been a last minute scramble for this or that. And various things that cost money keep cropping up.

    * How you feel about your budget post-wedding : I haven’t patted myself on the back quite yet – just wanted to share my interesting challenge recently. =)

  161. I think our total was about $35,000. We got married in Austin, which is probably more expensive than other cities in Texas. Oooooh the trendiness! At any rate, our church and reception venue were both downtown, which added to the cost. We had about 150 guests, most of whom were from out of town, so we had a full dinner/open bar.

    Here’s how most of our expenses broke down:
    – Church $1000
    – Reception venue rental $2000 (got a discount by joining the University’s alumni association)
    – Catering $16,000 (This included appetizers at cocktail hour, buffet for dinner and open bar for the whole night. For some reason, doing full open bar was the same price as doing full open bar for 2 hrs/limited open bar for the rest of the night. Fortunately, our friends and family can hold their liquor.)
    – Photography $3,500 (Luckily we booked our photographers when they were still up-and-coming. No way we could afford them now!)
    – DJ $1,700
    – Flowers $2,000
    – Cupcakes $600
    – Invitations $200? I think?
    – Dress $2,000
    – Alterations $600 (Bought the dress in NY before I moved, got it altered in Austin)
    – Suit for groom $300 (stalked the sales at Macys)
    – Makeup $300 (for bride, mother of bride and mother of groom)
    – Veil/shoes/jewelery $140
    – Rehearsal dinner $1000 sit-down dinner for 30 people
    – Rehearsal reception – $400 (invited all of our guests from out of town to drinks at local bar after rehearsal dinner with family and bridal party)
    – Honeymoon – $2000 (Santa Fe in low season, tickets on Southwest, used gift money to fund our love of chiles and museums)

    The biggest challenge was getting over the cost of what it was going to take to have the wedding we wanted. We’re lucky in that our parents were able to fund the vast majority of the costs and they were supportive of our decisions. My Catholic guilt, however, would often take over and I’d worry we were inviting too many people or were being too extravagant.

    The majority of our expenses was the food and drink, so we could have cut down our costs significantly by inviting fewer people. But, I’m glad we invited each person that we did. I’m happy most of our large families were able to attend and that we got to celebrate with friends from every stage of our lives. Who knows if we’ll ever be able to be surrounded by so many loved ones again. I’m sure they would have been happy with hors d’oeurves and a limited bar, but since most of them traveled across the country (or from abroad!), we wanted to at least give them a full meal.

    I recognize that we were extremely lucky to have the wedding that we did. Looking back, none of it was extravagant or over the top. That’s simply what it costs to have a fairly normal wedding in a relatively expensive, popular city.

  162. I know you said not to post til after the wedding, but a drastic and interesting change just happened to my wedding 6 weeks out. And everything’s already been paid for pretty much anyway…

    * Our budget is $13,000
    * Fort Lauderdale, FL
    * 50 people
    * Food: $3500 (the venue is paid by the food, its the restaurant – or was)
    – Photographer: $2300
    – My Dress: $800
    – Centerpieces: $130
    – Flowers: $200
    – DJ: $700
    – Decorations: $100
    – Chairs, ceremony decor/music: $300
    – My aunt is making a small cake and cupcakes
    – Chairs, plain linens, cocktail tables, bar service, ceremony coordinator, rooms are all being generously provided at no cost by the hotel.

    My biggest challenge actually came very recently. Its 6 weeks out and my venue, a seafood restaurant right on the beach contacted me to let me know their planned renovations will not be done in time for my wedding to take place. Panic ensues, but the banquet manager assures me the restaurant has made arrangements for an alternate location. There was a reason I chose the restaurant – its was cheaper than anything else in the area for a beach wedding/reception venue, and it was pre-decorated. The restaurant is all nautical themed with wood floors and the banquet room has flowers and so on. Our wedding budget was no problem with this arrangement, since the amount of people was very limited. The new arrangement is at a resort a few miles down the beach. As of the move, several new things have been added to a budget. I am grateful for what I have been provided at the same price by the (much, much more expensive) hotel – but I went from a nicely decorated, themed room to a 1700 Sq ft big, white tent.

    Table linens, decorations for the ceiling (at least paper lanterns are cheapish), and the mind-numbing task of trying to get everything to match. None of this is helped by the hotel event coordinator feeling the need to constantly remind me that just the tent (not the veranda or beach) costs more than my entire wedding budget to rent (the former restaurant arranged the same pricing I was going to pay them, at the new venue).

    Needless to say it has been a last minute scramble for this or that. And various things that cost money keep cropping up.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding : I haven’t patted myself on the back quite yet – just wanted to share my interesting challenge recently. =)

  163. So interesting to see all the different approaches to budgeting for a fun and practical wedding celebration.

    We spent around $13,00 CDN. About $6500 came from my husband and I, about $5000 from my parents, and about $1500 from his family. (Although our parents’ paid for specific aspects of the wedding, instead of just giving us cash, but I think this is about accurate).

    We live in a big city, but it took us about two days of calling places we thought might be in our price range to realize that NO venue in the city (even the gritty funky one beside a pawn shop) was in our price range. We ended up getting married in (and having a party in the country near) the smallish city where I grew up. In the city, we could have had a picnic/potluck or perhaps just some kind of really low key cocktail party/dance or brunch. In the smaller town we were able to afford the big rockin’ party with tons of food and booze and live music that we wanted to throw for all of our guests coming from various far away places.

    There was 130 people at our wedding.

    Rough break down:
    DRESS (young, local designer) – $500
    shoes, acessories, etc: $150
    SUIT – $180 (H &M)
    Getting the suit tailored – $120 (worth it)
    Shirt and Tie – $90
    VENUE – $1200
    RENTALS (place settings, linens, etc) – $1000
    DINNER – (local Indian restaurant) $3000 (for 130 people!!!)
    HORS D’OEUVRES – $300
    CAKE – $400
    BOOZE – (open bar + staff) $2400
    LIVE BAND – $1300
    RECEPTION DECORATIONS (this is partly so low because many of our decorations were borrowed, re-used or found on the street outside a flower shop that was closing down)– $160
    OFFICIANT – $300
    GIFTS for ATTENDANTS (homemade) – $150 for supplies
    HAIR and MAKEUP – $90
    WEDDING RINGS – $300 for materials and silversmith workshop (made our own)
    MARRIAGE LICENSE (and random other stuff you don’t think of till the last minute, like a cake knife) : $150

    As you can see, we decided to prioritize food, the bar and an amazing band, which were our biggest expenses. Some usual wedding items are missing because we either didn’t have them or because amazing friends offered their talent and skills for free. For example:

    FLOWERS – $0 (a friend grew them and other friends made the bouquets and table/ceremony arrangements)
    PHOTOGRAPHY and VIDEOGRAPHY – $0 (we are lucky to know many talented professional and semi-professional photographers who graciously took some great photos and another friend made a super 8 movie of the ceremony)
    CEREMONY MUSIC – $0 – (friends played)
    DJ – $0 (Itunes)
    PA system – $0 (borrowed from family)
    Morning AFTER BRUNCH – $0 (leftover samosas and advil) Didn’t do this — if you throw a crazy enough party nobody is all that interested in chitchatting the next morning :)

    Biggest challenge: Not freaking out about spending $6000 of our own money on one big celebration. We had never spent this much money on ANYTHING.
    Also, negotiating our parents’ expectations. The whole parents’ pitching in thing basically came about after my Dad realized that our “picnic in the park and party in a bar after” idea would mean no wine with dinner (due to local bylaws). Even after our parents decided to have a financial stake in things, they were all pretty chill (we were lucky). But we still had a few strained conversations about the relative necessity of cheese plates, “welcome bags” and such. In the end, some of the things our parents insisted upon were great ideas. Others (like the rehearsal dinner at a restaurant instead of in someone’s backyard), I’m not so sure.

    Overall, I feel good about our budget. We didn’t go into debt. We didn’t feel lavish, but it felt special. And *I think* our friends who helped out and offered their services for free were happy to do so and enjoyed playing such a big part in our wedding. Sometimes I see other people’s super-pro wedding photographs or $2000 gowns and wonder what it would have been like to have those things, but then I remember how glad I was to not have a photographer bossing us around in the sunset when all we really wanted to do was drink champagne with our guests and how easy it was to dance in my fun short dress… and then I know we made the right choices.

    In the end, it is SOOOO not about the perfect look and the perfect photos. If you put thought into the ceremony and throw an amazing party then ALL the photos will be amazing because everyone will be crying, laughing and grinning, high on all the love.

    # How that budget roughly broke down (How much was food? Venue? Dress?)
    # What your biggest challenge was.
    # How you feel about your budget post-wedding

  164. This is all very interesting, but with 260+ responses now, it’s also beginning to feel a little…redundant? I’m much more interested in WHY people budgeted the way they did, and spent what they did, than I am in HOW.

    Wedding budgets are fascinating, because so often, people readily and knowingly throw caution to the wind and/or begrudgingly suck it up and spend what it costs to get what they want. How many times have we all heard the story of the wedding that started with a budget of $X, that ballooned to $Z? How many of us LIVED that story?

    Everyone approaches planning and budgeting differently, and I’d be interested in reading more about these various approaches and the values behind them.

    1. I wanted to reply to your post, since I think the ‘why’ is a very valid question to ask.

      We basically started with a generic breakdown of the budget. We had said that we didn’t want to spend more than X amount, but had no idea what we “should” spend on food, on clothing, on anything. And even though it ended up being spend-what-you-think-is-the-best-price-for-the-best-quality-you-can-afford, at the beginning it was helpful to have a general breakdown that said, X% of your money might go toward this and work from there.

      So from there, some of the ‘how’ choices were just made by process of elimination for us. For example, we knew we wanted to have a church wedding and a reception that wasn’t at a hotel. But once we weeded out hotels and venues that weren’t in our price range, we were left with something like five options. And then of those five options, we had to find one with a church nearby. But the church couldn’t charge upwards of $1,000, and would have to agree to perform an interfaith marriage. And on and on. Once that was set, the venue had an approved caterers list, so we knew the food had to come from there. And the choice came down to an okay food option that was pretty much within budget, or a fantastic food option that was made with a lighter conscience, and, well, there was that decision made.

      Other decisions . . . The extra money for the extra time for the photographer, we knew that we wouldn’t regret that, and we’ll always value all of the shots that she got. The extra money for the live band, we enjoy jazz, and knew a lot of guests would appreciate it, since many of us are/were performers. DIT invitations were simply because I felt strongly about using non-virgin paper products, and neither of us saw paying a lot of money for something that we could do for ourselves way in advance. Not hiring anyone to do my hair and makeup, well, himself’s aunt actually came to do everyone’s hair, which was super, and a friend did everyone’s makeup, except for mine . . . another friend did mine, which I appreciated, but wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I wouldn’t necessarily have hired anyone, but I may have put a little more thought into what I wanted. We chose to purchase our own liquor because a) it was cheaper, and 2) we could return the unused portion and get money back (we ended up keeping the wine, but that’s also amazing).

      I just read this back, and while it’s not terribly interesting, it’s a bit of the ‘why’ in our particular case.

  165. I was the one who posted the comment that prompted this post! I feel so important! I LOVE feeling important. Okay… so… our wedding budget

    TOTAL: around 18k including rehearsal dinner, after party, and day-after brunch

    LOCATION: Amherst, MA (Not NYC expensive, but still College Town New England expensive)

    SIZE: 120 people

    BUDGET BREAK DOWN: it’s been a year, so I’m having trouble remembering… so I’m going to go to the old wedding budget folder… it’s probably not exactly this, but this is what we thought it would be just before the wedding. My mom spent a little more in the week before the wedding trying up loose ends:
    Catered Rehearsal Dinner: $950
    Food: $4420
    Drinks: $2146
    Venue and Rentals: $1528
    Photographer: $1385
    Fashion (dress, suit, shoes, jewelry, headpiece, etc): $1385
    Shuttle (from the hotel to the venue to the afterparty and back): $700
    Stationary (invites, thank you’s, postage, etc): $400
    Hotel room for the two of us: $148
    Rings: $150
    Favors and thank you gifts: $250
    Wedding insurance (we had to buy it for the venue): $300
    Decorations: $500
    Music: $900
    Day-After Brunch: I don’t know, my grandmother and father took care of it… I THINK it was around 1k

    BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Weirdly… I think it was letting my fiance (now wife) convince me not to buy expensive chairs and linens (I got really swept up)

    FEELING ABOUT BUDGET ONE YEAR LATER: Personally, I never gave it a second thought. I have NEVER EVER SPENT THAT MUCH MONEY EVER (or even close… I don’t spend more than 5k on cars) and it didn’t bother me one iota that we spent a lot on our wedding. The way that we decided on our 15k budget was thought that the two of us could definitely swing spending 5k of our own money and we thought that each of our parents could definitely swing $2500k (they’re all divorced). So, we went from there. In the end I think that my mom ended up spending more (which she could handle) and that’s why the ending budget was more like 18k (it might have even been closer to 20k).

  166. Wedding Location: Upstate NY, Collegetown (pop about 30,000)
    Planned from: Bride: NYC/Groom: Texas then Ohio
    Let’s think about that triangle of long distance planning/relationship….glad that’s done!

    Total Spent: $38,000
    $40,000 was given to us by my parents, I paid for my dress, shoes, etc. We paid for rings. No honeymoon due to his gradschool/new job.

    Size: 165 attended (210 invited, of which 15 live within 4 hours)

    Venue: 2,500
    Food: 16,500 (!!!) arg!
    Beer & Wine: 5,000
    Cake: 400
    Ceremony Location: 600 (University Chapel)
    Officiant: 900 (traveled from NJ, 2 nights stay)
    Dress w/alterations: 3,000 (my baby!)
    Shoes, accessories, 2nd dress: 400
    Hair, makeup: 100
    Centerpieces: 400 (grown by mom, driven from NJ!)
    Bouquets, a few arrangements: 670
    Music, my uncles MOST AMAZING BAND!: 2200
    (this was a discount, mostly due to travel and hotels)
    Photographer: 2,750
    Paper: STD, Invites, Menus, Programs, etc etc etc: 900

    Biggest Challenge:
    Planning from a far. We picked our venue from Chicago, oh add that to our love triangle, that’s where we spent the summer when we first got engaged. We never got to visit locations because we knew there were so few in the area that held the amount of people we were inviting. I fell in love with our venue’s property (from the internet!) and unfortunately they are foodies (not us) so it meant and expensive night, i could have had a BBQ! That was reoccurring guilt throughout the process. I felt like if I had been there more I could have found another property, or home or something…but you can’t do this to yourself…

    Luckily Meg’s budget post kept bugging me and although I haaad signed the contract for their $1200 cake (plain vanilla and no tasting little did we know) I informed them I was dissatisfied and would be getting the cake elsewhere.

    I struggled a LOOOT with photographers….I procrastinated and was about a month too late on the great ones in the area and got the bride oh-crap if I don’t book this week there won’t be anymore photographers on this earth…and now it may be one of my regrets…we’ll see, we’re still waiting for pictures.

    But really, if I can say one thing: LIVE BAND. DO IT.

  167. One more (as if it’s needed):

    Final number: $23,000 of which we paid $14,000
    (not including honeymoon)

    Location: Big expensive city on west coast of Canada
    Size: 80 people
    Rough breakdown:
    – Venue: $1500
    – Food + alcohol: $2500* (Giant asterisk here – close family friend is a caterer so the actual food was FREE!)
    – Rentals + servers + chef: $7000
    – My dress and accessories: $1600 (custom made silk dress, seriously worth it)
    – Both rings: $2000
    – Photography: $3400
    – Decorations + Flowers: $600
    – Invites: $300
    – Rest went to gifts, tux rentals, photobooth, makeup/hair, other misc.

    Biggest challenge: not knowing how much things would cost ahead of time. I didn’t know what to realistically budget for!

    In hindsight: still shocked at the total but I am absolutely happy with everything we paid for and really would not have cut out anything.

  168. Total cost ~34k.

    We live in a very expensive area, we had about 80 guests.

    rough breakdown of how money was spent.
    officiate $300 (1%)
    invitations, thank yous, placecards, programs, guest book $1,050 (3%)
    DJ ceremony/reception $1,450 (4%)
    photography $3,000 (9%)
    hotel rooms for us/wedding party $1,000 (3%)
    wedding party/parent gifts $1,000 (3%)
    Lighting, fancy tablecloths $1,800 (5%)
    centerpieces, all other decorations $250 (1%)
    Favors $420 (1%)
    rings $1,800 (5%)
    groom’s outfit $650 (2%)
    bride outfit, hair, makeup $2,000 (6%)
    Venue (inc location, food, booze, dessert) $17,725 (52%)
    Rehearsal Dinner $1,550 (5%)

    In the end, we spent a lot of money, but I’m happy with how it all turned out. We like food, so we paid for it. It was delicious.

  169. Man, this post comes at the perfect time. Our wedding is 29 days away and I just had my first George Banks moment a la “Father of the Bride.”

    I should say that our budget is much higher than what we originally intended to spend, but it is what it is. I’m very fortunate that my parents are paying for the big ticket items, but my soon to be mother-in-law has also contributed and my fiancé and I have paid for a lot, too.

    Here in Upstate NY there seem to be a lot of expensive weddings; some might think since we’re 2+ hours from NYC that things must be cheaper, but it’s not always the case. A lot of folks grow up here and move away, but come back to get married. We’re also blessed with some spectacular scenery (the Hudson Valley, western Mass/berkshires, Lake George, Saratoga Springs, the Catskills…and it goes on).

    In total, we’ll have spent about $44k
    Let’s break it down:
    Venue (cake and food, service charge and tax): $24k
    Dress: $3,100
    Rings: $1,200
    Church: $750
    Invites, save the dates & other paper items: $1,00
    Photos: $6,300
    Transportation: $1,200
    Coordination: $1,200
    Florals: $4,000
    DJ: $1,100
    Groom’s suit: $800
    This doesn’t include the rehearsal dinner, honeymoon or other miscellaneous costs.
    To be honest, this number is both staggering and embarrassing in many ways; it’s no where I thought I’d be and it doesn’t seem practical or normal or sane. But if I’ve learned anything in this process (and it’s stated here often) it’s that our wedding day is not just about us, but it’s about our families. It’s one day, but it’s an important day and more than anything, it’s a reflection of who we are and our love and light in the world. And I take solace in that the decisions we’ve made and the vendors we’ve hired were not made in haste. In fact, we hemmed and hawed over many of them. I even bought two dresses and sold one already. That being said, we’ve made some mistakes…(aside from my first dress) but we’ve remained true to ourselves and our families and look forward to the day.

  170. I’m a wedding undergrad but I swear, if we go over-budget I may slit my wrists. Mind you, we are getting married in January to stretch our budget further. Still, it’s crazy expensive.

    Budget: $50-60K (cushion for unexpected surprises)
    Breakdown: 1/2 of our budget is our ballroom reception on a Saturday night with open bar, cocktail hour, & 4-course dinner. We spent $5K on photographer (important to me) & $5K on band (important to fiance). Florist $1500, transportation $1250, stationery $1K, etc, etc. I spent $803 on my dress, although I expect it will be about $1K with alterations.
    Place: Northern NJ, pricey due to proximity to NYC
    Guests: 150 maximum
    Challenge: We are paying for the wedding ourselves & we find ourselves wanting to do everything. We’d love to shuttle our guests to & from our hotel to our ceremony since there is only hard-to-find street parking. We’d love to invite all guests to the rehearsal dinner. We’d love to host a post-wedding brunch. We’re constantly dreaming big, then reeling ourselves into reality. APW helps remind me that the only thing that truly matters is walking down the aisle & marrying my fiance!

  171. I think we ended up spending about $22.5k, but I don’t know the exact number. We live in Washington, DC but got married in Audubon, PA (suburb of Philadelphia) because it was slightly more affordable (and my family is there). There ended up being 120 people at the wedding. The food was most of the cost ($11k); venue was $2500; dress was around $800; alcohol (we brought our own) was $1200; photog was $1200; band and dj were $1800; we donated $500 to our officiants mission; rehearsal dinner was about $500; wedding bands were $1000; my husbands suit was $500; invites/savethedates were $700; $300 to host our wedding day 5k race; and the rest (>$1000 decor and flowers, which my mom did all of).

    My biggest challenge was not stressing out about all that money going out. It felt like such a big number. I think part of the problem was that I was overally optimistic when I set my original budget ($15k), especially since my venue (which was the most important thing to me) had one caterer so we couldn’t really control the catering costs (we chose their cheapest option).

    Now I don’t think about that money anymore, it’s over, it’s spent, and the day was amazing. Beyond any of my expectations. And my husband and I got into such good saving habits for the wedding, we’re already building another nest egg.

  172. Thanks for taking this topic on!
    Good call on keeping this anonymous, I’d never admit some of this otherwise.
    We’re a little over a month post-wedding. I’m still basking in the amazingness that it turned out to be, because really, I was skeptical that it would be as Amazing as married couples claim.

    Budget: 10K from my parents, 3K from his. spent the budget
    Location: Smallish college town in a mountain state. 80,000 pop., moderate cost of living
    Guests: 90
    Highlights of budget: $100 BCBG dress, purchased new off once wed, mom – minor alterations.
    $200 groom’s suit & shirt – Banana Republic after x-mas sale. $20 tie – urban outfitters. $200 flowers from farmers mkt. vendor. $3,500 venue(see below), $2,000 reception catering(not including alcohol), $3,000 self-catering & alcohol, $100 Paperless Post save the dates, invites & thank you’s.

    *Challenges: Trying to balance 4 opposing goals: 1) keep our costs as low as possible (we wanted $ leftover from our budget) while 2) truly hosting our out of town guests for 4 days & making their time feel like a vacation and 3) have the wedding feel like ‘us’ (casual & relaxed but still refined) 4) keep the wedding environmental impact as small as possible. We had our wedding at a non-staffed lodge and hosted 40 of our out of town family & guests from thurs-sun. We self catered all the food with the exception of the reception dinner. It turned out really well in the end, but WHOA, it almost broke me several times.

    **Afterthoughts: We did not meet our goal of having $ leftover – we spent our budgeted 13k. To us this is an enormous amount of $. We struggled with it for about a month. A few times I found myself saying, “but we only spent $300 on our outfits – where did it all go?!” What we *did* with that 13K was provide lodging & food & drink for ~40 ppl for 4 days and had a personal, love-filled, delicious & eco-friendly wedding/reception for 90 guests.
    I’m conflicted about our guests thinking we spend a **lot** more than we did. While I wanted things to be as inexpensive as possible, I did NOT want it to feel budget or cheap. We worked really hard with planning, diy-ing, cooking, and coordinating to save $ wherever we could and still have the end result we wanted. It worked. All of it. And it was Amazing.

  173. * What you spent on your wedding.
    We spent around $6000 on our wedding

    * Where you live.
    We got married in the Salt Lake City area of Utah.

    * How big your wedding was.
    We had 40 people at the ceremony. And about 150 at the reception.

    * How that budget roughly broke down (How much was food? Venue? Dress?)
    Food, including cake, came with the reception venue and was about $3500 of our budget. We served a light dinner of croissant sandwiches and fruit.
    We spent $700 on photography.
    It was about $250 for the invites including stamps.
    Flowers were roughly $100.
    The dress was about $200 for the materials and then it was homemade.
    We had a family dinner the night before the wedding that was about $800.

    * What your biggest challenge was.
    Our parents offered to help out with parts of it. And my biggest challenge was feeling comfortable spending the amount of money they offered. I don’t like spending my own money often, and I feel the same about the money of others.

    * How you feel about your budget post-wedding.
    We’re feeling pretty good about our budget post-wedding. We recognize that it was super helpful to have our parents chip in what they did. There isn’t really anything I wish we hadn’t spent money on that we did and there isn’t anything that I look back on and wish we would’ve spent more money on.

  174. We spent right around $15,000. That was the budget my parents set, and well, we spent most of it. His folks gave us about $3,000 more afterwards that we spent on wonderful folding bikes, one of our better expenses.

    As far as breakdown, my dress was $750, custom corset, very simple, I knit the lace, my mother sewed it on. My shoes were favorite old sandals, his boots were new ~$350. We spent less than $2K on food, and $150 on flowers. Our reception site was owned by the local Parks & Rec, and cost $200 for the day. Where we splurged was quilts, my sister pieced 10 quilt tops (fabric was close to $1000), and I had them professionally quilted and bound (close to $2000). The photography was close to $3000, and it was money I wish I hadn’t spent, though that was largely that the photographers were flakes and have since closed their business because they just couldn’t meet the needs of their business. 4 flights to the midwest (~$350 each) for my husband and I, for the planning trip and wedding itself, and 2 plane tickets (~$700)for friends who wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise. And that’s all the details I can actually remember.

    The rest was eaten by incidentals and I have no idea where it all went. It was mind boggling that it all added up so quickly. If I never have to throw a party that big again, it will be too soon. And we “only” had about 75 guests (though we invited >150, he has a big family)

  175. My husband’s family is wealthy, while mine barely gets by. My father-in-law offered to pay for our entire wedding weekend, and covered half of our honeymoon expenses as a wedding present (totally unexpected).

    Our wedding was in downtown Boston. I’m not 100% sure of the final total, but we spent about $40K on the wedding weekend and $11K on the honeymoon. Boston weddings are very, very expensive – because of some smart shopping on my part we actually spent less on the wedding itself than we would have at other, comparable venues. We only had 75 guests, including ourselves, which obviously kept costs down.

    Hotel wedding package, including food and beverage: $16,000
    Rehearsal dinner: $4,000
    Sunday breakfast: $1,500
    Florist: $1,900
    DJ: $1,400
    Uplighting: $900
    Paper: $1,200
    Photography: $2,800
    Chuppah (cloth and construction): $600
    Ketubah: $450
    Wedding party gifts: ~$1,000
    My attire: $1,000
    Groom’s attire: $900
    Hotel for us, my parents, and our officiant: $1,500
    OOT bags and favors: $600
    My wedding band: $400 (we used his engagement ring as his wedding band)
    Honeymoon airfare (to Paris): $4,500
    Honeymoon hotel (10 nights): $3,300
    Honeymoon spending money: $3,200

    My biggest challenge by far was feeling deserving of the incredibly generous gift we were given. We spent more on one weekend than my mother makes in a year. My husband was as sympathetic as he could be, but since he grew up privileged he was never able to fully relate to how hard it was for me to justify the expenditure.

    Now that the wedding is a month behind us, I’ve made my peace with the money we spent. Actually, I’m kind of proud of how much I was able to do with the budget we were given. My husband and his family had a pretty specific idea of what a wedding entails and I had to live up to that, and everyone has gushed about how well I did. I’m pretty happy with myself and what I accomplished.

  176. 46 hours elapsed between our engagement and our wedding, so there wasn’t enough time to spend a lot!

    License: ~$80
    Commissioner: ~$115
    Rings: $1300
    Clothes: $180 for me, $100 for him
    Champagne: $160
    Flowers: $70 (one stem for me, boutonnière for him, and a bouquet for the house)
    Photos: Free (gift of a witness)
    Announcement cards, envelopes and postage: ~$400

    Since we aren’t rich and all of our family members and the great majority of our friends live far away, we decided to elope in the living room with only two friends as witnesses. We even called our parents afterwards! my parents then surprise-treated us to our wedding dinner, which was just the two of us.

    We had a two-part honeymoon: one week away alone that our parents collectively got us for our wedding gift, and a bit later, a ten-day two-city trip where we got together with many of our best friends and lots of family to celebrate with them. We paid for that and it came in at around $4,000, I think.

    I don’t miss the stress and so forth that would inevitably have resulted if we’d planned a big, “normal” kind of wedding (even if we had tons of money, it would still be stressful!), but I do kind of wish I’d had a proper wedding dress. It was still a very special day, and it was fun to surprise everyone with the news.

  177. We got married at his grandmother’s house with about 100 people and I have to admit that I think my friends thought I spent more than I really did. There is a lot of pressure in the area that we live to have a $20,000 + wedding and if you or your family can afford it, that’s awesome but there was NO WAY that we would have been able to spend more than we did. My husband is in art school and we just bought a house so all of our “wedding money” went to closing costs.

    When we were planning I had MULTIPLE freak outs about catering ($50pp for a vegetarian pasta PLUS service fees was pretty much our whole budget) but my husband told me “you’re resourceful, I know that you can do this on a reasonable budget”, so I called a local deli and they made us a HUGE spread of gourmet pizzas, roasted veggies, salad and fruit for $10pp. There was so much food leftover we ended up putting it in baggies and dropping dinner off for the local Highway Patrol office that my dad works at!

    I can’t really tell you EXACTLY what we spent but I can tell you that my parents paid for rentals (1200), food(1100), flowers(500) and my dress (200) and booze (400) and I didn’t go over $4500. We didn’t have favors or a DJ and we got pictures for free. They also hosted a brunch the next day complete with Mariachis and huevos rancheros!

    My husband and I paid for invitations (hand designed and put together for around 150), plates (100), cutlery (50), cups (50), drink dispensers (25 each) and produce for the pies that my dad and I made. I also spent about 50.-$1 for vases which ended up being about $50. We also did A LOT of yard work at his grandmother’s property which put a bit of a dent in our account but when I’m there eating sunday dinners I look around the yard at what we accomplished and it makes having the wedding there even more special.

    His parents didn’t contribute financially but they did pay for 3 nights in a hotel in San Francisco (we only live about 30 minutes away) so we could afford a nice weekend away.

    There were some things that we didn’t include in the budget (his suit, my shoes, our rings and my makeup) only because they were items that I knew we would get multiple uses out of so they essentially paid for themselves.

    Money will always be a touchy subject for almost everyone when it comes to weddings, either you spend too much or too little but it’s never what’s “just right” for YOU and I really feel like what we spent was really “just right” and I’m fortunate to have been able to spend that money at all.

  178. We, being mostly me and my husband, along with help from our parents, spent about $18,500 on wedding in my hometown of Baton Rouge, LA. We invited about 160 and had 135ish (the meal was cajun buffet) show up.

    Highlights of that budget –
    *Food & Reception Costs – $9K
    *Church Fees – $1.1K
    *Photographers – $1.6K and Videographer – $850
    *Dress – $850 (including alterations)
    *Band – $1200 (my husband almost refused initially, but at the reception decided we could have paid double and gotten our money worth).
    *Decorations – $800 (flowers, etc)
    *Invitations – $300 (gifted from talented friend)
    *Rings – $0 Free at Jeweler who did engagement ring
    *Gifts for bridesmaids & Groomsmen – $350

    Biggest challenge:
    My husband was AGHAST when we began talking about the budget at 10K. Who could blame him? Not me. I patiently explained many times all the items and where the money would go. It was tough at times personally questioning whether I was being frivolous/greedy/etc. I combated those emotions by combing over our budget so many times and ways that at one point I just burst into tears with him. By the end of the process, he felt like our now 15K budget was still cutting a few too many corners for the people we cared about. So he became the one insisting on spending more, much to my relief.

    Post July 2009 wedding
    I feel good generally because we incurred no lingering debt and had a beautiful weekend to begin our married lives. I am so fortunate to have found the sane voices of APW, because throughout our many decisions, I held firm to our priorities. I hadn’t heard about that. People kept saying “Do what you want/It’s your day” which is UNhelpful because weddings include guests. We wanted our guests to feel as welcomed and celebratory as we would that day, plus we love a great party. Who doesn’t plan a great party with the guests in mind?

    Together we had decided on a Catholic ceremony to honor our love and begin our marriage, followed by one hell of a party for our loved ones filled with all the Southern hospitality we could muster. We had to cut some corners like a former florist (me) opting for tiny bouquets and no centerpieces. And, spend more on others like the church fee, because while other churches charged MUCH less, they were not located near the hotel and reception. Looking back, all I might change is planning a wedding in the same city you live in when possible. It made everything more difficult.

    So THANK YOU to the wise ladies who said find your priorities, and then make your budget. That strategy allowed us to have a wedding that was very much us, very much fun, and very much worth what we did end up spending. Cheers!

  179. Our budget was about $10000, and I believe if you add it up what we actually spent comes out to around $9800 and some change. This doesn’t include the rehearsal dinner, because his parents planned and paid for that in its entirety, so I honestly don’t know what was spent. I basically told them what time the church was free for the rehearsal, and they told me where to be and when after that. (Best. Rehearsal Dinner. Ever). The wedding was in Minneapolis, Which I think price wise can really range. We definitely would have had to spend more if we had a caterer and a florist!
    The church was $600 (for piano/organist, cantor, priest, coordinator, space, etc)
    Our venue is $1200
    We spent $500 on rentals (table cloths, napkins, place settings, vases for the buffet tables), which we got an amazing deal on because a family friend owns the rental company!
    My dress was free (because it was my mom’s) but I spent $200 having it altered and updated.
    $500 on flowers (buying them wholesale and arranging ourselves)
    Alcohol was $900 (We were able to buy and bring it ourselves and our families are people pretty used to church basement receptions, and don’t mind that the alcohol is a bit cheap!)
    Rings were $400 together (this was also pretty discounted because we have a very close family friend who is a jeweler)
    The food was pot-luck style, but we provided hot dogs and hamburgers, so we spent about $100 on buns and about $500 on the meat, and we also bought stuff to make s’mores (bonfire!), which ran us about $175
    Gifts for the wedding party cost about $20 per person, and so that total ended up being $200
    We also spent about $200 on pop (or soda depending on your region!)
    Our photographer was our big splurge at $3300 (and worth every penny!)
    Our centerpieces were cakes which my sisters and my mom and my aunts and I baked. Everyone just brought ingredients and cake stands, so I actually don’t know how much that ended up costing. I spent about $40 on it.
    Invites, programs, thank you cards and save the dates were all diy’ed with a group of friends, and ended up costing $600.
    We paid a couple kids from our church $50 bucks each to help set stuff up and take stuff down. So that was $200. We also bought them some pizza which cost $25.

  180. OH MAN.

    The nerd in me wishes you had done this survey-style…. so we could have all the meta-data in the end! Mmmmm….data about data…..totals, averages, regional costs… I realize that’s probably not the point of this post, but IMAGINE. IMAGINE THE PRACTICAL DATA.

  181. We probably spent between $8,000-$9,000. We wanted to keep our wedding as inexpensive as possible, but after taking reality into account our first estimated budget was $7,000. We didn’t go over that by TOO much. We live in a pretty large city (I think it’s something like the 16th biggest in the U.S.), and it’s moderately affordable. We invited 200 people, planned for 180, and I think we actually ended up with about 140, despite heavy snow the day of the wedding. Here’s how things broke down, roughly.

    Venue: $700
    Photographer: $1300
    Band: ? (MIL paid for it)
    Food: approx $1500
    Honeymoon: $1500
    Dress: $600
    Alcohol $100
    Flowers $200
    Cake $250
    Rentals (coat rack, glassware, etc): $200
    Invites, STDs: $150
    Rings (mine, his, and engagement): $500
    Thank you gifts (for 12 members of bridal party): $100
    Wedding/Christmas gifts for each other: $500
    Rehearsal dinner: probably about $400 (FIL paid for it)
    Hair and makeup – free (bridesmaids did it)
    Groom’s attire – free (he owns a tux)

    I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of stuff, so I’ve added a bit to the overall total. It makes me feel sort of sick to think of how much money was spent on this one day. It was a nice day, and I’m thrilled that we had such a great wedding, but I just can’t believe we spent $9,000 on one day (or a week, really, if you throw in the honeymoon and rehearsal)! My biggest challenge with wedding planning was our parents, his mother especially. Everyone had ideas about how a wedding should go, and a lot of those ideas cost a lot of money. We were both in school and working part time for most of the planning period, so we just didn’t have much money. Our parents are not especially wealthy either, so we didn’t feel comfortable asking them for help, even though we eventually had to.

    In the end, we paid for all of the things that we thought were really important or were personal to us (rings, photographer, dress, etc), and for everything else we worked out the cheapest possible way to do it, and then presented that to our parents when we met with them about the budget. In many cases (band, food, rehearsal dinner, honeymoon, rentals, etc) our parents weren’t happy with our low cost choices. We told them that they were more than welcome to “upgrade” but that we couldn’t afford to do so on our own and we didn’t feel comfortable asking them to. Because of that, our plan to use an iPod for music became a 7-piece band, the potluck reception became catered, the 2 nights at a hotel in a nearby town became a cruise, and so on. I think we did the best we could to keep costs down, but it still upsets me that so much money was spent.

  182. From the beginning it was really important to us to pay for our weddings ourselves, throw a fabulous party and not spend a ton of money doing it. Our budget was $5,000 and we started saving a year and a half before we got engaged. We wanted to have the money set aside and not be in debt after the wedding. $5,000 was our goal, but I always knew it would pay for things that were important to us and it would be great to have that $5,000 set aside.
    Tallying it all up I think we spend around $6,600. We didn’t keep close tabs on everything so I might be off a bit, but overall I feel great about what we spent and we had such a fabulous wedding! The day *spectacular* and everyone had so much fun.

    We live about 40 minutes north of Seattle.
    Our had 92 guests including kids

    Here’s the break down:
    Venue: $2,000

    # What your biggest challenge was.
    # How you feel about your budget post-wedding

  183. Hi! I’m glad we’re talking about money. The more I stress about something, the more I like to talk and think about it. So thanks, Meg, for letting (…or making) us talk about money.

    We got married a few weeks ago on a lake outside a smaller city in the Northeast. We got frustrated early on – it took forever to find a great venue that didn’t charge too much per plate! We wouldn’t budge on our guest list (I have a huge family, he’s the most social guy in the world). We wanted to be able to invite everyone.

    Total wedding cost: $20,000
    (my hardworking, not rich parents paid 8000, my parents-in-law chipped in 6000 and I paid the rest, as my now husband was in school at the time).
    168 guests
    Venue/food/open bar = 11,500 (we originally thought it would be 70% of our budget)
    Photographer = 1,300 (she was there for 8 hours and handed over the jpgs and copyright the week after the wedding!)
    DJ/sound equipment rental = 735
    Ceremony location/chair rentals/music =750
    Invitations and RSVPs = 610 (paid a friend to design and print them)
    Flowers: 330
    Suit for groom + ties for groomsmen = 300
    Cake and Pie = 300
    Hair and Makeup = 160
    Reception Decorations = 200 (DIT)
    Gown via Brides Against Breast Cancer = 500
    Save-the-date magnets = 75
    Limo all day = 750
    Wedding Rings = 1050
    Other stuff = 1400

    And then there was the honeymoon, which stretched past our budget. I allocated 0% to this, but obviously I blew the budget on this. My husband (who has a new job…yay for two equal incomes!) and I are planning to pay this off by Thanksgiving…

    Total honeymoon cost = 3650
    Travel = 1280
    Lodging for 9 nights = Free (gifts from family)
    Food = 1270
    Activities = 1100

    We just vowed that we wouldn’t go into debt because of our wedding, and we were able to pay for everything out of pocket up until the honeymoon. I like stressing about numbers (it’s taken me 10 years to get myself close to being out of debt, so I don’t ever want to go back!), so I’d convene meetings with my husband to make sure he was as stressed as I was, mainly to help us avoid unnecessary impulse purchases…

    And our parents, who both are coping with the economic recession, were still extremely generous in their contributions to our big day. We didn’t take any penny for granted…everything we bought for our wedding, minus the food and drinks, was intended to be reused or passed on down the line.

    Hope this helps someone out there!

  184. We are getting married in 2 weeks! My original budget was $10,000 (that magic number, right?), but now we are probably closer to $12,000. We live in the DC metro, are originally from Oklahoma, and decided to get married in Annapolis. I wanted to get married on a boat on the Chesapeake (but the wedding price jump was too much), so then I panicked, and THEN I found a very affordable venue for this area. We expect to have between 80-100 guests (send in those RSVPs!).

    Our budget
    Venue Rental $3,295 (for both the ceremony and reception site, includes clean up, rooms to get ready, and we can use our own caterer)
    Food $1,500 (a DC food truck)
    Drinks $300 (no alcohol – my fiance is a recovering alcoholic)
    Dessert $300 (homemade)
    Cheese $300
    Photographer $400
    Dress $300
    Groom’s Attire $200
    Invitations and postage, website & software $380
    Decorations $575
    Flowers $150
    Groom’s Ring $60
    Soundsystem for iPod $150
    Attendant Gifts $400
    Out of Town Sacks $200
    Marriage License $55

    That’s around $8,565 – but doesn’t include the Rehearsal (approximately $2000 for 60! people), and our hotel room, and other incidentals that I expect to be around $1,500-$2,000.

    Because of APW, I scrapped Save the Dates, and I found a parking garage that had free parking on the weekends only 1 block from our venue, so didn’t mess with transportation.

  185. Total: about $6000
    Where we live: San Francisco. I believe that puts us in the painfully, hair-tearingly expensive category. Needless to say, we had to do a lot of things ourselves.
    Size: 55 guests

    Venue: $550 for a state park.
    Food and drink: about $1500, half homemade, friend-made, and incredibly generous acquaintance-made, and half ordered from a nearby restaurant.
    Flowers for bouquets, corsages, decorations, etc.: a little under $100. The San Francisco flower market is a bride’s best friend.
    Attire: $250 for me, $500 for him, but considering how hard it was to find, he’s planning to wear it for the rest of his life
    Rings: $900 for all three
    Supplies for invitations, thank you cards, programs, etc: $60
    Vendors: $1395 for photographer, officiant, servers
    Rentals: $700
    Misc. little expenses: about $100

    Biggest challenge: Hiring people. We hate haggling almost as much as we hate spending money.

    How I feel about it: It’s much more than I wanted to spend, but considering where we live, it’s not bad.

  186. We set our budget to something we could repay in a year, easily. So, we made sure to be as realistic as possible with what we could afford. Then we prioritized. Half way through, we were given an overly, wonderfuly, astonashingly generous gift…..our wedding. Paid for. With NO input wanted from the person doing the paying. Wow. Still, we stuck to that budget. I didn’t see that as “now we can spend double”. Nope, I stuck to it more fervently than ever, much to my groom’s dismay.

    Place: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas
    Guest Count: 57 (though 5-7 people we’d already paid for bailed the day of)
    Bridal party: 4 each

    Prices are rounded:
    Venue: $1000
    Food/Drink: $4500
    Photographer: $1000
    Cakes: $600
    Dress: $500 (a designer sample that I adore)
    Alterations and cleaning: $275
    Accessories: $100
    Flowers: $180
    Wedding Invites/Announcements: $380
    A bridesmaid dress in exchange for hair: $60
    A tux that we “gifted”: $120
    Fabric for table runners: $50
    Favors: $150
    Parent gifts: $100
    Crafting supplies: the remainder to total $9,500

    We did a lot of crafting – homemade guest book, card box, table coverings, table decor, flower arrangement, favor stuffing with homemade tags, all of the groomsmen and bridesmaids gifts, and such. It kept me busy and sane. I loved it. We used an iTunes playlist and speakers (that failed a lot but oh well, made for funny stories) from my husband’s job for free.

    The only “haggle” and it really wasn’t, was that the baker cut the price by like $400 to get in my budget. He loved our ideas and WANTED to make our cakes. Otherwise, I considered that if they were asking higher than I could afford, I needed to keep searching instead of making them feel like they weren’t worth the money.

    I hope that helps!

  187. I just discovered APW last week..and i’m seriously kicking myself for not finding it earlier in my engagement (Nov 2009). I’m not yet married, but definately interested in all the perspective, advice and honest truth that y’all are spilling in your budget forums.

    @ the brides that got married in DC area or planning a wedding there..i am glad that i’m not the only one who was flabberwhelmed with how much things cost. We initially planned on getting married there (most of the family lives there) – and the process of finding a venue that provided what i wanted, but also @ a reasonable costs was frankly overwhelming.

    Please keep the info coming. If anyone has gotten married in France (destination weddding) i’ll love to hear your experience, as that now is my latest idea – a wedding + vacation rolled up in 1 :)

  188. I feel really bad for adding to Meg’s exploding inbox…

    We spent right around 18K for 140 guests in Atlanta (this number includes things like our premarital counseling and our rings). Our biggest costs were:
    -10-course meal for the reception (standard in my culture): $7200. Thankfully that number also included chair coverings, service, uplighting etc. because our venue was all-inclusive. We were allowed to bring our own alcohol, so we spent $300 for twelve cases of beer. (Tons left over)
    -Photography: $3850 (included engagement session, day-of coverage, rights to all our photos, and an album)
    -My dress, shoes, etc. were about $1000 and hair/makeup for me and three bridesmaids came out to about $600 (talk about sticker shock! But I was determined to pay for the bridesmaids since two of them were traveling from the land of far, far away).

    We were able to save on things like flowers, day-of coordination, the cake, ceremony musicians, etc. because of really talented friends who either did things for free or at-cost. (i.e. a friend who baked us 10 cheesecakes of different flavors for the cost of a lower-end wedding cake. Awesome.)

    There were quite a few hard things when it came to the budget:
    1. My desire to stay frugal vs. my in-laws insistence that we spend whatever we like and send them the bill. My husband’s family is enormously wealthy, so it wasn’t a matter of “we are going to send your parents into debt,” and their generosity is exactly that – generosity, not a bid for power. But I still felt intensely uncomfortable at the idea of them seeing every line item cost and also guilty with the concept of spending their money. So we basically had them match what my parents gave us for the wedding and then quietly paid for the rest ourselves. This in turn made them feel like they didn’t contribute enough when they found out our total costs, so my father-in-law insisted on paying not only for the rehearsal dinner but also the impromptu lunch get-together we had the next day with over half of our guests (I know… no one wanted to stop partying…) I think I’m still trying to sort out how to reconcile the fact that my in-laws show love through (extravagant) gift-giving and that part of my conception of what it means to form a new family with my husband is to be financially independent from our parents.
    2. Feeling like we didn’t have control over our guestlist (and thus budget, hello 10-course reception meal) when my mother kept adding guests last minute.
    3. Feeling guilty that my “bride-y stuff” (dress, hair, makeup, makeup trials, etc. etc.) was costing so much money. I got my alterations for free from a family friend and my wedding jewelry was all a gift, but when I lined up all my getting-ready expenses against my husband’s $120 tux rental, I felt horrifically extravagant.
    4. Being one of the first in my circle of friends to get married and feeling super-judged whenever part of our budget came up. My roommate at the time, especially, would make comments about how much money we were spending, which was really hurtful when we were trying to be conscientious about our budget, spending what we could afford, and doing away with a lot of extras.

    Looking back, I don’t regret what we spent and what we spent it on. For the most part, we made decisions that felt right/authentic to us (i.e. helping out with some friends’ travel or hotel costs, etc.) and stretched our dollars to get the most bang for our buck. I do feel like the entire process was very fraught with all the baggage we bring to the table with any kind of money talk and I wish that could have been differently, but at the end of the day, I’m proud of us for throwing a classy and hospitable wedding on the amount we did.

  189. This is such an incredibly interesting post!! I imagine I’ll spend the weekend trying to keep up with all these comments.

  190. Oooh…Totally wish this would have existed when I was planning my wedding, so here’s my contribution:

    We spent right around $20,000. I say right around $20,000 because we had 3 sets of parents (my Mom and Dad, husband’s Mom and Stepdad, husband’s Dad and Stepmom) who were really lovely about providing things like the alcohol, personalized napkins (Dad was just convinced that we needed them) and a rehearsal dinner (appys and open bar for about 15 people at a restaurant). They didn’t tell us how much these things cost, and I didn’t ask.

    We got married just outside of Philadelphia in a little town called Media, PA. We were able to avoid some of the really expensive Philly vendors that way.

    We had 100 guests and a 6-person bridal party. We had the wedding and reception at the same venue, and a friend married us.

    Here’s the breakdown of the ~ $20,000 total:

    Venue: $2,000
    Food: $8,000
    Dress/Accessories: $400
    Flowers: $1,300
    Photography: $1,000
    DJ: $900
    Rings: $2,000 (splurge–we made them ourselves at Wedding Ring Workshop)
    Invitations: $200
    Favors: $85
    Insurance: $175 (required by venue)
    Cake: $350
    Miscellaneous: $1000 (gifts, decor stuff, marriage license, etc.)
    Paid for as a gift by family: $3,000 (educated guess based on what I know these things tend to cost)

    My biggest challenge was including everything that we ‘had to have’ according to our friends and family members without spending an obscene amount of money. My parents said they would be embarrassed if we didn’t have a sit down dinner. His mother said it ‘wouldn’t be a wedding’ without flowers. My husband’s friends were bummed when we said that we might not have groomsmen. Yes, really. They’re weird like that.

    Post wedding, I feel pretty good about the budget. Yes, it was a stupid amount to spend on a party. None of us went into debt for it, though, and it was an absolutely amazing day. I was completely unprepared for the love that surrounded us. It was worth every penny. We also spent $5,000 to go to Greece for two weeks for our honeymoon. That trip, too, was worth every cent we spent on it.

  191. $17,000
    Denver, CO
    90 People
    Budget breakdown. Ceremony venue (a city park with a building): $500. Ceremony chairs $200. Reception food and drink (open bar) was nearly $10,000. (This also included the reception venue which was a restaurant, but they didn’t charge anything besides the cost of our food/drinks.) Photography about $1,500, Dress, about $1,000 + Shoes ($150) and undergarments ($80). Hair and makeup for me and my posse: $600. Invitations: $400, Save the Dates $100, Postage: $100. Florist $300 (we had minimal flowers), Etc.

    My biggest challenge was finding a dress I liked. I ended up having it custom made, but because of who I chose, I still didn’t love it, and I would have liked to. The other challenge, was that we started off thinking we could do this for $10,000 and THAT would be a LOT of money. Whoops.

    I still feel like it was a lot of money to spend, and I do wish that I had done something a little different for my dress. But, I’m also glad that we had that money to spend because using a restaurant to host us meant that we worried about nothing and had ample time to eat really good food and spend time with all our guests. I think, not knowing what I was doing, I ended up spending more money in some places too– like ribbons I didn’t end up using, and making my DIY/DIT programs a little too complicated (but they were pretty!). I still think that we could have gone more casual and spent a lot less money– like have a keg and a tent at a city park and get BBQ catered. But be both had an excellent time and our guests did too (but they probably would have no matter what we did.) For me, the party for love was what ended up being the most important, but I’ve thrown much less expensive parties before and they were great, too. I guess, I feel like the money was well spent, but if I had it to do over, I might make different choices.

  192. *opens up handy dandy budget spreadsheet! with pie charts!!*

    What you spent on your wedding: $9900

    Where you live: The wedding was in Raleigh, NC. To unpack that, it’s a city of about 406,000 people in the Southern US, with cost of living slightly below the US average.

    How big your wedding was: 69 people attending (we originally invited 112) (including ourselves and the wedding party)

    How that budget roughly broke down (How much was food? Venue? Dress?):

    38% reception food and drink – No venue rental fee; it was a restaurant where if we met a minimum order, the only cost was food and drink. I was super excited to be able to score that deal, which we could only score because our wedding was on a Sunday (the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend). That saved us at least $1k, based on my research into the venue costs in the area. It was a flat rate of $39.95 per head for buffet dinner and unlimited house beer, wine, and soft drinks/coffee/tea. This percentage includes 7.75% taxes and 20% gratuity.

    1% reception music – we had originally planned to do an iPod wedding which would have required spending around $200 on sound system rental, but then we got an offer from a DJ friend to do it for $150.

    21% photography – this was a priority for us, and we were prepared to pay more than we did. We paid around $2000; we were expecting to pay around $3000.

    12% ceremony – $360 for the venue (a city park), $400 for the officiant, $297 for chair rental (including extra fees because pickup was after hours on a weekend), $150 for musicians (who offered us that price because they were friends of my mother).

    13% rings (including my engagement ring) – Technically both his wedding ring and my engagement ring were paid for before we started saving and tracking wedding spending, but I included them anyway as a part of the total cost.

    5% stationery – we designed our own Save the Date postcards and invitations; this cost includes having them printed and postage.

    3% attire – My dress was made for me, for free, which was a huge help. Otherwise, the dress I really wanted would have bumped up the budget by $1500, and I don’t think I really could have resisted buying it. I asked my bridesmaids to wear black cocktail dresses, no particular dress, no requirement that they match. Two wore dresses they already owned; one decided she wanted to take the excuse to buy a new dress. We did not rent tuxes — groom and groomsmen just wore black suits they already owned. We paid for matching ties for everyone — $15 each. I did my own makeup and one of my bridesmaids did my hair, so that did not cost money.

    3% flowers – I ordered 200 bulk roses from the internet and made my own bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres. Well, actually one of my bridesmaids made most of them because she is better at crafts than me, so she made like 3 bouquets and 4 corsages while I was still fighting with the first bouquet. However, it was still nowhere near as complicated as I’d feared. I kept everything super-simple and that helped. All I wanted was various colors of roses.

    2% wedding night hotel room – they didn’t hook us up with a free bridal suite or anything for blocking rooms with them; we had to pay for our own darn room.

    3% gifts for bridesmaids – I really wanted to give them nice presents because they had all bent over backwards, spent a lot of their own money and time, and done so many awesome, amazing things for me. I gave them a package including a canvas tote bag with a cute floral design from H&M, reversible wraps to wear for the ceremony, sparkly flip-flops if they wanted to change shoes at the reception, body wash and lotion in their favorite scents, a different novel for each of them I thought they’d enjoy, and a bottle of good sparkling wine.

    1% cake – We just bought 3 regular cakes in 3 different flavors from a local bakery, with their standard frosting designs (which are nicely decorative already). The reception venue had cake stands for us to use. I bought plastic action figures from a couple of our favorite movies to use for cake toppers — we got tons of compliments on that; people thought it was fun and adorable. We also got lots of raves about the cakes themselves, since this local bakery makes insanely good cakes. I’m really happy we went this route for the cake.

    What your biggest challenge was: Honestly, I didn’t find the budgeting part of things too hard. I researched the hell out of how much things cost, and estimated the hell out of how much we could save up and how much our parents offered to contribute, before planning. Things tended to cost about what I had expected them to cost, so my expectations about what we could afford lined up pretty well with reality. While unexpected costs of course sprang up, I had padded the initial budget estimates enough to absorb all of those, and had used very conservative estimates of how much we would save — so we ended up being fine.

    I guess the part that shocked me was when someone, post-wedding, asked what our total budget had been, and then said “Wow, you should have just gone to the courthouse.” I felt like we had done a great job of researching and planning and prioritizing and getting good deals on things, and it hurt to think that someone else thought we were being spendthrifts.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding: I feel very good about our budget post-wedding. We did not go into debt; we were able to save up enough to pay in cash for everything. Not going into debt was important to us.

    We did a good job of prioritizing the elements that really mattered to us — namely, a meaningful ceremony, good professional photography, and eating, drinking, and dancing with our family and friends. We were able to find options that offered the things we wanted at a reasonable price without requiring us to also pay for things we didn’t care so much about.

    My parents were willing and able to contribute about 30% of the final budget. Obviously, this contribution gave us more options. Without it, we would have had to make more compromises. For example, I wanted to do as little set-up, prep work, and decorating as humanly possible, because I don’t really enjoy that kind of work. Without my parents’ contribution, I would have had to choose a venue that required much more work from me — most likely my in-laws’ backyard. (Even cutting the guest list, we could not have afforded the venue we did.)

    Skilled family and friends offering to help out let us get a lot more from our budget. My dress and hairstyling would have made our budget much tighter if they hadn’t been given as gifts. The offers from DJ and ceremony musicians made it possible for us to do more than we could have with an iPod. We also could not have afforded the fancy pocketfold invitations we sent out if my husband hadn’t been able to design the pieces himself, and cut and assemble the pocketfolds from card stock himself.

    Choosing a semiformal, casually eclectic aesthetic, rather than a very formal and/or very carefully coordinated aesthetic, also helped us save money and time. We did not have many particular requirements for how things needed to look, so we didn’t have to pay more to accomplish a particular look for anything. Examples: the flowers, the cakes, the wedding party attire, the lack of any extra decorations beyond what came with our venues.

    This is not a value judgment against very formal or carefully coordinated aesthetics! I just think the aesthetic we chose is somewhat easier to accomplish more cheaply, without spending extensive DIY time, because making changes and compromises on how things look is much easier to do.

    Anyway — these are my stats and some of my thoughts.

  193. Not married yet but soon! We’re spending less than $10,000 for the whole thing, definitely. Hoping to come in under because that’s what we’re getting as gifts from our parents, so the less we use for the wedding, the more that can be used for the house.

    I live in Philadelphia but I’m getting married in Hershey. Philly’s absolutely expensive, Hershey can be depending on where you go, but we’re being creative and flexible and I’m getting my dream venue for way less than I’d pay to do it the traditional way!

    Ceremony in October (just family and best best best friends, about 40 people)
    Church: Free
    Officiant: $150-200
    Music: Free, friends are singing
    Flowers: I’ll let you know after this weekend, but I’m not doing any decorations and I’m keeping my bouquet VERY simple. Less than $100 for me, my MOH, and my flower girls is the goal.
    Dress: $630 total; $500 (on sale) + $50 for alterations + $80 for underwear
    Veil: $50
    Cool antique comb from Etsy: $63
    Shoes: $150 (fabulous, gold and sparkly from Steve Madden)
    Jewelry: Borrowed
    Suit (Macy’s): $300 + $40 in alterations + $50 shirt/tie + $89 for new shoes
    Hair/Makeup: $200 for day of/trial
    Dinner for 40 at the Circular Dining Room @ The Hotel Hershey: About $3500-$4000 including dinner, drinks, tip, tax (we’re just eating in the restaurant together, not renting out the whole place)
    Before and after tab at the Iberian Lounge: $500 – $750ish
    Music: Free (jazz band plays every Saturday night at the lounge)
    Photos: $400

  194. I’m not married yet, but I have a firm hold on the money situation (I’m obsessed with saving money so wedding spending is driving me up the wall). I started my budget at $20,000, then it went to $23,000 and then to $32,000 after we got three quotes for catering. I hate rentals + labour costs :(

    Total: $32,000 (ugh)
    Where you live: Toronto
    How many people will be attending: 150


    Food: $16,000
    Bar: $3000
    Dress: $250 (eBay)
    Venue: $3,100
    DJ: $1,200
    Photographer: $2,400 (engagement shot, wedding day + photo booth)
    Flowers: $500
    Decor: $1000
    Transportation: $2000
    Celebrant: $300
    Favours: $300 (we are making a donation instead of giving gifts)
    Plus like a million other things and I am not including the rehearsal dinner or honeymoon (which is running us at least $8,000)

    Both sets of parents are contributing $15,000 each (which is super generous), but I feel so guilty about spending all that money on one day. If I had know how much this would have cost, I would have done a tiny wedding at City Hall with a dinner after or elope somewhere.

  195. Overall cost: Roughly $23000 (not counting honeymoon and gifts for wedding party)

    Wedding location: San Diego, CA

    Size: 125 people

    Breakdown: Catering $10000 (food was about $4000 of that… the rest was service, service charges, and taxes), Venue $3600, DJ $1200, Photographer $1300, Dress $800, Tux $150, flowers (DIY) $500, Vases/table runners/lanterns/favors/other decor (DIY) $500, Rental chairs/tables/etc. (didn’t do them through the caterer) $1200, Lights $400, Makeup $100, Hair (bridal party) $250, Accessories $150, Wine/beer $250, Invitations/thank-you cards $100, Cakes $140, Rehearsal dinner $1700

    Biggest challenge: Well… I’m going to take advantage of the anonymity and say that my husband and in-laws’ unwillingness to look outside the traditional box was our biggest challenge. As is, they fretted that an “outdoor California wedding” might be too casual for their extended families, so they insisted on as much attention to detail as possible. My MIL, especially, had issues respecting boundaries, so she just… took over. That was really hard. Plus, they absolutely insisted they spend exactly the same amount for both kids’ weddings (his sister married earlier that year), so they were fighting me on things that my parents and I wanted to pay for. That may not sound like a terrible thing, but it’s awkward. And when I didn’t go with their wishes, they sidestepped me. My MIL also appointed herself our wedding planner, when I thought she’d just be the point person the day-of, and just mowed me over. I held my ground (or tried to), she decided I didn’t appreciate her enough, and things became really ugly.

    I don’t know how we could have done things differently, since my MIL didn’t exactly demonstrate great listening skills and my husband didn’t stand up to her until it was too late. I’d probably would have preferred to cut them out of the equation entirely and politely ask that they just be guests at the wedding. That would have changed a lot of things, as they did contribute generously, but I’d be happy cutting everything and everyone out, having a wedding that we could afford on our own, and not have a lot of bad memories or deal with the fallout.

    How I felt about it: Our wedding was gorgeous. Yet, I was utterly flabbergasted by how much everything cost. The catering bill was our major splurge, but we weren’t willing to compromise on the meal and expected it to be expensive. We thought we cut a lot of corners and DIY’d a ton. Flowers/decor/invitations were DIY, the cakes were made by a local food blogger, our photographer was starting out (and he rocked!), and the lights were the absolute cheapest we could find in San Diego that didn’t require us to hang ourselves (venue didn’t let us in with enough time to hang our own lights). Guilt was massive on my part, but in a strange reversal of bad WIC stereotypes, hubby didn’t care. He wanted a very traditional, very elegant affair, so he was willing to spend for it. Looking at our wedding superficially, I’d like to think we would have spent $40000 with San Diego’s vendors if we hadn’t cut the corners we did. Some San Diego caterers would not even talk to me unless I was willing to spend $15000-$20000 on a 100 person wedding. We did find some fantastic wedding elves, though, and they did a fabulous job with everything.

    1. I just wanted to clarify my comment about “looking at my wedding superficially”… I’d like to think that, to have the a wedding that *looks* very similar, it would have cost a lot more if we did it with traditional WIC vendors. San Diego is also a city that has a ton of WIC-ish vendors and restrictive venues. We only had 12 caterers our venue would let us work with and only one would do the type of food we wanted and were willing to help us cut a few corners.

  196. Approx. Total: $25800 (CND)

    Where you live: Toronto – an expensive city in Ontario (no making your own alcohol, 13% sales tax on everything).

    How big your wedding was – about 100 people

    How that budget roughly broke down:
    Food/Booze: $12200
    Ceremony site (minister, organist): $1200
    Attire: $1800 (about 1000 for the dress, 300 for alterations, 170 for the veil, misc $200 (shoes, etc), Hubby wore his own tux but had a custom shirt made, I think it was about $100)
    Photography: $4000
    Rings: $3000
    Staionary/postage: $500
    DJ: $600
    Flowers: $500 (for bouquets for myself and my 8 bridesmaids – MIL paid for flowers for the church/reception – I wasn’t planning on having any. I have no idea how much they cost)
    Attendant gifts: $1800 (we had a wedding party of 18)
    Misc: $200

    Things not included in the budget: limo, hair and makeup, flowers for the reception/church, honeymoon.

    Biggest Challenge:
    Our venue canceled on us at the last minute. This ment a lot of scrambling and last minute expenses (more invites, we needed transportation to the new venue, the new venue cost more, our original decor plans had to be scrapped etc). It was hard because we spent our money on what was important to us – things we would always have (rings and photography), and found a great, affordable venue, opted out of limos, favours, etc. But it was too late to un-spend the money on other things at that point.

    How you feel about your budget post-wedding:
    Thankful to our parents for helping us out (financially and emotionaly), and glad that found solutions to everything. When you’re worried about getting cabs/climbing over barriers in a wedding dress (there was minor security issue on our wedding day – the G20 was in town. Long story), it’s worth it to get a limo. Definately a case were it was worth throwing money at the problem to make it go away.

    1. Holy, I never even thought that tax would up our costs here in Canada… and in Nova Scotia the sales tax is even higher. So funny, the little things.
      Another reason why comparing between countries-provinces-states really doesn’t make sense. :)

  197. What we spent?
    No idea! I think we figured about 5,000 afterward, but in the breakdown below I feel like we’re missing a few things. My husband and I decided it was a once in a life event and we spent what we spent. That said, we are simple people and did not have a lavish wedding. My parents chipped in what they could, and his family bought plane tickets up. That was about equal to what we spent and my parents. It was a DIT wedding!

    Where do you live?
    Medium-size town in Alaska, (small town everywhere else), just outside a big town, about 8,000 people.

    How big your wedding was?
    60 guests for the ceremony and dinner, 60 more (120 total) for the pie reception. BUT, we invited about 300. Because of location, we knew that most people wouldn’t be able to come so we invited everyone.

    Budget Breakdown:
    Food- about 750 (shared cost w/ parents, king salmon gift from friend, Costco, and blueberry pie!)
    Dress-300 (parents bought)
    Attire-350 Shirt, tie, bridesmaid dresses, shoes
    Decorations-300 (making things kept me going!)
    Flowers-600. Probably the most expensive thing to buy for an Alaskan wedding. That and I’m picky.
    Paper things-200 (stamps are expensive! We made and printed off our own invites and programs, and stamps were probably the greatest cost)
    Chairs/hardware- 750 (parents)
    Photography- gift from close friend, her husband married us
    Music – gift from close friends
    Ring- 600 from etsy! His fingers don’t really work out for ring wearing.
    Rehearsal dinner- gift from Aunts
    Honeymoon- the camping is out of this world here! Probably 200 in fuel.
    Venue- beautiful backyard of close friends!

    Biggest challenge?
    Letting go the week of the wedding. A lot of the cost was immediately before the wedding and I cannot handle spending oodles of money all at once. I realized that I could not contro